In September and October I led a Sunday school class on the book of Amos. Not a book I had ever read before, and if I would have, I probably would have stopped, put it down, said "I don't need to read this kind of crap," and moved on.
But this time I took it seriously. And it's amazing what I learned. Amos is talking to the rich, telling them to stop being so complacent and to stop ignoring the poor and to do justice. One of the most striking passages is in Amos 5:21-24 (The Message version) where God, speaking through Amos, rails on the Israelites for their worship without justice:
I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice--oceans of it.
I want fairness--rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.
That last verse is perhaps more recognizable as "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Anyway, interesting passage. Lots to chew on.
In one class, we talked about our generosity - in particular to the poor. At this time of year, many charitable organizations send out appeals for our money. In this class that I mentioned above, one person said, "I think of myself as a generous person. But I'm generous with my excess."
This stuck with me. I thought about how sometimes I look around our cupboards for donations for the food bank thinking "what could we do without until our next shopping trip?" Stupid. And selfish. I also thought about how I do justice at an arms-length. I give to organizations or to the food bank, but this is indirectly helping the poor. There are not a lot of encounters that I have in suburban Waterloo with the poor.
So this study was a challenge for me to get out of my comfort zone. To directly interact with "the poor." To do justice. To give not just out of my excess. I'm not sure what this means, but that's what's on my mind today.