Scripture Reading: Amos 6:1-14, Amos 7:1-17, Psalm 47:1-9, Acts 4:13-20
It’s hard to read Amos without squirming.
Throughout this short book—chapter 6, in particular—Amos paints a scene of extravagance and wealth. Israel is at the height of its splendor. Riches, comfort, leisure, and affluence are all theirs for the taking. They are privileged to the extreme, a portrait that sounds quite a bit like many countries and cultures we inhabit today.
Mistakenly, the Israelites hoarded their opulence as “blessing.” They saw the provision as an end in itself, a gift from God to be indulged. They also drew security from it. They took pride and comfort in being more powerful than the countries around them. They measured success by having more of it than their neighbors.
God rebuked them for their greed, and in the strongest possible terms, because He viewed blessing quite differently than the Israelites. God did not intend for the Israelites to prosper simply to luxuriate in it. He did not provide them with wealth simply as an assurance of security. And He did not allow them ease of life simply to grow complacent. The blessings of God were never meant to be stored up like grain. In the wake of God’s judgment on Israel’s pride, Amos cried out, “Lord God, please forgive!” (7:2).
Thousands of years later, Amos’s words are as relevant as ever. We continue to live in a world of vast economic disparity. From country to country, and even community to community, the range of prosperity is wide. In some cities, multi-million dollar homes sit within miles of homeless shelters and housing projects, and Christians populate them both. And so, wherever we fall on this spectrum of wealth, Amos challenges us with this question:
What are we to do with our blessing?
Whatever the size and the shape of our privilege, how are we to use it? Amos compels us to consider this question, but so does the witness of Christ. Jesus, after all, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” but “took the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6-7), meaning He leveraged His privilege for others. Jesus denied Himself comfort and set His splendor aside out of love for God and the world. We cannot claim to follow Him without following Him in this also.
Jesus’ handling of His own privilege is the standard passed down to us. When we want to know what to do with our blessing, we look to Christ. When we enjoy success, gain, or even a leg up, we are never meant to hoard it for ourselves. Rather, as followers of Jesus, we are meant to leverage our blessing for others, just as He did for us.
This is radical. Even in the Church, this is radical. When blessing comes our way, it’s easy to receive it as a personal reward for faithfulness. Or it’s tempting to store it away for the sake of financial security. Neither response is wrong in itself, but our vision should always be bigger than ourselves. God’s intention for blessing is never individual; He always has a broader blessing in view.
Just as Israel was meant to be a light to the nations, and the Church a light in the world, everything we are given has a greater purpose. May we steward our blessings accordingly.
Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.