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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fat Cows

Honestly God, "fat cows"? Was that you, or is that Amos' paraphrase? Did you say it with more dignity, more aplomb?

I am asking these questions of God because I read of God's displeasure expressed in Amos 3:13-4:3.
"15I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end, says the Lord.

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!”"

The wealthy women of Samaria lived large, so Amos called them "Fat Cows." It reminds me of the unfortunate response from the queen in France shortly before the French Revolution. She was told the starving people where riotous because they had no bread. Her brilliant response? "Let them eat cake." Why didn't some court attendant pull the clueless monarch aside and say, "Um, excuse me your blindness, er, I mean, your highness. But they don't have bread. They certainly can't afford cake."

Or earlier in history, to the rich women in Samaria demanding "drink" from their husbands. "Excuse me ladies, but while you are loafing, consuming all the resources of the nation, the people in your country are starving and your opulent, extravagant life styles are contributing. And GOD SEES!!"

That's one thing I take away from Amos - God sees. God always sees when there are a few people soaked in riches and a lot of people wallowing in hunger and scarcity. God sees me - my life. In my honest talk with God, I have to honestly acknowledge where I have lived wastefully. I have to confess when I have demonstrated indifference where God would want me to express compassion. I don't want to be a fat cow demanding drink and living in summer and winter houses (Amos 3:15).

If you read Amos and try to localize his piercing prophesy so that you would say he only speaks to ancient Israel and ancient Samaria, hear the words of 19th century Bible scholars Johann Frederick Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch. These scholars refute any attempt to dismiss Amos as a prophet for back then but with nothing to say today. Keil and Delitzsch write "The sin of these women consisted in the tyrannical oppression of the poor, whilst they asked their lords, i.e., their husbands, to procure them the means of debauchery." God's judgment speaks to wealthy people today.

Amos said they would end up dragged into slavery by hooks in their noses (4:2).

Really, God, did Amos need such graphic imagery?

Perhaps the real question is do I realize how disgusted God when people of privilege ignore people on the margins?

I hear enthusiastic Christians talk of the urgency of evangelism. They want to "get people saved," get them into Heaven. I don't deny it. With Heaven and Hell at stake, Christians need to share Christ with people. However, we also need to understand what it means to say Heaven and Hell are at stake. Read Matthew 25:31-46 or Luke 16:19-31. In those passages Jesus condemns to Hell anyone who has neglected to help the needy. Would that include me?

Or read Amos. The language is colorful and the reader might feel like Amos is calling him a "Fat Cow." But it is better to hear that, awaken, and take spiritual stock. It is better to change one's life and live compassionately today. That is better than to continue to live in blissful ignorance and then discover on the "Day of the Lord," that God was really angry, judgmentally angry, that we didn't notice those around us and help and love them.

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