The Observations and Indictments of the Prophet Amos — Still Relevant to Today’s Church 2,765 Years Later

The French have a saying, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” The more things change, the more they remain the same. As I was recently studying the prophet Amos, I realized how much his comments on the Temple had in common with mine on the church in general, and the Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement in particular.

Amos came from Tekoah near Jerusalem and preached around 775 to 750 B.C.. It is significant that he lived during a very affluent period in Jewish history. Israel was extending its borders, retaking captured cities (II Kings 13) and taking control of important trade routes. A wealthy class soon emerged (Amos 3:15). Amos gives a sense of the affluence and decadence that developed, yet there was also an impoverished class in their midst living the life of serfs. This was the first time in Israel’s history that there was this kind of economic class division. What made Amos particularly angry was that this wealthy class of Jews was claiming that their wealth was a sign of God’s blessings upon them, and conversely, the poverty of the region was a sign of the absence of divine favor. My question is, how does this differ from today’s “Health and Wealth Gospel?”

This is where things get interesting. The priests at the Bethel Temple were tempted and attracted by the wealth surrounding them and began to be very proactive in leveraging more and more generous giving from temple goers (Amos 4:4). Amos decries the morning sacrifices, the tithes, the free-will offerings and the thanks offerings. He saw these as vehicles for the transfer of wealth to the priestly class of professional clergy of the temple. The Jewish scholar Shalom Spiegel writes of how the temple priests even came to openly preach that giving these offerings to the temple was literally more important than helping the poor, thus going against the core fiber of Jewish economic religious practice and longstanding belief: charity and benevolence.

At the Bethel Temple, Amos accuses the priests of neglecting the poor among them, and even oppressing them: “…you who devour the needy.” (Amos 8:4) He also mentions the accompanying sexual decadence (2:7). Amos also gives us an indication of the prevailing mentality of the temple officials which seemed to express an immunity from judgement because they were “God’s chosen people.” (2:6-8) How many of America’s churches today reach into the pockets of poor people to build lavish buildings at the expense of those living in rented homes?

The result of Amos’ preaching was swift and predictable. After all, this was on a practical and economic level the very same dynamic that wound up bringing a death sentence upon Jesus Christ 800 years later on the basis of his indictment of the Jerusalem temple and its corrupt officials. The High priest announced that Amos was to be expelled. History records the consequences of that decision: Amaziah, King of Judah would die in exile, his family would be destroyed, and the ten Tribes of Israel would be taken from their land (7:17).

The parallels to the modern church in America are striking and powerful. The church has been corrupted by wealth, has ignored the poor among them, and has run off and shuns those among them who have brought back to life the message and observations of Amos. Come, Lord Jesus.

About Jerry Kaifetz

Christian author, c.e.o. Omega Chemical Corp.
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One Response to The Observations and Indictments of the Prophet Amos — Still Relevant to Today’s Church 2,765 Years Later

  1. Marty McCoy says:

    I’ll never forget about 20 or so years ago that there was scandal over the President Of The National Baptist Convention, the largest black Baptist convention in America. Henry Lyons, the President of the group, and a pastor in St. Petersburg, Florida, was accused of misappropriating millions of dollars of funds from, not only the Convention, but from his own church. At the time, I was living in Central Florida and the local news I got was from Tampa area stations. I remember how they reported that he had 3 mansions, two in South Florida and one in North Carolina that was bought with church funds IN HIS NAME. He also drove a couple of Mercedes, and his wife had a Lamborghini and they showed it on the TV. They also looked at some of the people that were members there. Several of them were “little old ladies” who lived on a fixed income, but they gave him a great amount of money for his personal use. Several were people on welfare who would sign their checks over to him and put it in the offering plate. They interviewed one of these ladies and she just lauded praise on him and called him “My Pastor-Bishop Lyons” over and over in the interview. She said that she got a little over 600 dollars a month in SS disability, yet she said that she wrote a check for 100 dollars every month and made it out to “Rev. Henry Lyons”. They asked her if she knew the way that he lived with his mansions and luxury cars (she couldn’t afford a car so she walked two miles to church every Sunday) and she could barely afford groceries. Here is what she said, almost verbatim, I’ll never forget it, “We po’ folks, we can’t afford much, we got so little we ain’t gonna git much to give, but we like for our Pastor-Bishop to be able to live like we can’t live because WE CAN LIVE HIGH THROUGH HIM. When we can help him and his ministry to live good, we can live good because we’s love him so much!” She was smiling the entire time!! I almost fell on my knees when I heard it and I prayed under my breath, “Lord, bring this man down and show these poor people how much of a wolf he really is!!” A couple of years later he was found guilty of several felony charges and spent several years in prison. He’s out now and trying to regain his position, the NBC wouldn’t elect him, but he is the President of a splinter group of black Baptists in Florida.

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