Summary: A look at how God’s views issues like fair trade and exploitation and what an appropriate Christian response is.
We have been looking at what it means to please God. We saw that it must start from faith. We also looked at what it means to please God with our minds and then this morning we looked at what it means to please God when we have disagreements. This evening we look at passage which tells us that God was displeased with his people. So hopefully if we can see what displeased God then we can avoid it and instead please God.
This passage from Amos 5 is interesting because the complaints that God has are not the ones that usually spring to mind. When most people think about the Old Testament prophets complaints against the people of Israel, is that they turned to foreign gods. They aren’t giving God their best. There not observing the correct sacrifices. There’s a standard list. But we should add one more to that list. It shouldn’t be a new one to you, since we’ve looked at it before, but I think it would surprise most Christians if they read through the Old Testament prophets and truly paid attention to how often it comes it. And then to notice what kind of language is used to talk about it and then go back and reread the Old Testament prophets and notice how often this language is used and see just how much the Old Testament prophets keep harping on about the same thing.
The importance of the issue
What we are looking at is of course social justice, the stopping of people exploiting the poor and favouring the rich. We tend to see this very much as an after thought to Christianity. That the important thing is to ourselves right with God, then get Church right and then if we have any time left then we can begin to do a bit for the poor as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what the church is really about. You may not believe that, but I’m sure you’ll have heard that kind of attitude, if not stated in those precise words or even explicitly then certainly in the way people act. Or even we’ll let this group do the social bit while we get on with the real Christianity. The problem is that this concern for social justice is not something tacked on at the end of Christianity, it is right at the beginning.
Often when we approach this topic we look it at from the perspective of what the church can do. In one sense this is very proper. There are immense problems in this world, the aids crisis in Africa, where in some countries more than half of the adult population is infected. When the sars virus swept through Asia there was world wide panic and crys of how terrible it all was. Yet, the death toll was hundreds if that. The death toll from aids is millions. If as many people died from a new strain of flu in the western world, instead of aids in the third world, there would be an absolute outcry. If half the population of the UK, suddenly developed a virus and within 20 years 75% of those people were dead, it wouldn’t be academic exercise for other people to worry about. If there were drugs available which might help but weren’t available because they were too expensive. Yes, there are big problems in the world and to help these and even some of the social problems in our own country and town, they do call for a church level approach. These are often things that we as a church can help with in a way which we as individuals can’t.
Unfortunately, this does create this situation where we regard social justice as something a bit further down the list than it should come. It’s only natural. The way our churches are set up, our first goals are to keep open and increase our numbers. Then if we have anything left in terms of time, labour and money then we begin to think about social issues, maybe. We have a hard enough time getting people to clean the church, why should we bother trying to get people to volunteer for some social thing. Or we have a hard enough time paying for the upkeep of the building, paying the pastor and doing evangelism, why should we spare money for social stuff. And yet we do. I’ve spoken in the past about what we as a church do and our priorities as a church. We are doing some stuff, for example we gave our harvest offering to .... And we as a board are looking into opportunities that we can realistically do as a church. Unfortunately we’re not quite as far along in that as I would have liked, but then again quite often it’s my fault we’re not moving faster.