“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!Amos 5:21-24
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.
“By worldly standards, I am a good dude.” I wrote these words a few days ago while reflecting on Amos 5:21-24. I compare myself to other people frequently and I stack up, according to my worldly standard, pretty well. I don’t use profanity. I give money to religious organizations. I pray for people who are going through a hard time., etc. I can climb really high on my mountain of greatness.
But it is simply because I use worldly standards to qualify my own goodness. The bar for which we as humans use to judge good versus bad is skewed into an unbelievably favorable position for people like me, who keep their noses clean (as the saying goes).
This is a precarious situation. It is easy to feel good about yourself listening to the news and seeing how terrible people act sometimes in public. It is easy to feel pride in yourself when you are applauded for being good because of the words you use or because your children turned out well adjusted. But is that the standard by which we should measure ourselves?
No! God’s standard is what matters. And he tells us in this passage what he wants from us. He wants us to be real and authentic with him. He wants church to be about him and not about how good of a show we can put on. He wants our offerings to be out of generosity and not out of obligation or an exchange for a service he will do on our behalf. He doesn’t want music to be noise, but he wants music to connect people with him. He wants us to treat people with dignity and respect and to show no favoritism.
When I look at that as the standard (and, as a Christian, that is the only standard I should care about), I fall woefully short.
Lord God Almighty, pour out your Spirit on me and ignite my heart on fire for you so that I treat people with the respect you desire all to have, so that I will worship you authentically every day, and so that my offerings and songs are to you and no one else. Amen.