BEFORE WE CHRISTIANS VOTE with our pocketbooks—like some people do who don’t bother with God—there’s a jolt waiting for us in Bible books of the prophets. One prophet in particular, Amos:
God doesn’t measure kingdoms and nations by upbeat economic indicators. Except, perhaps, when it comes time to punish them.
In Old Testament times, like today, wealth didn’t trickle down from the top. What trickled down was corruption, immorality, and injustice—along with all the other nasty side-effects of ignoring God. What evil leaders did, citizens mimicked.
Amos taught that if a nation becomes morally bankrupt, unashamed, and unwilling to repent, bad news waited. Whatever amounted to a stock market in those days would crash and burn.
In fact, the whole doggone nation crashed and burned—one city at a time thanks to Assyrian invaders from what is now Iraq.
Tough talk from a fig farmer
Amos farmed a grove of fig trees in Tekoa, a village half a day’s walk south of Jerusalem, in what was called the southern Jewish nation of Judah. Israel had split into two nations: Judah in the south and Israel in the north.
Prophets normally preached to people of their own kingdom. But God gave Amos a message to deliver to the northern nation of Israel.
This was a Golden Age for Israel. Rich got stinking rich. And it smelled to high heaven.
Citizens were trying to get rich too, by all means necessary—good and evil.
But the poor, like many today, were ignored, or exploited, or treated like dirt.
Amos was sensitive about that. You could tell by some of the colorful words he used to describe the rich and powerful.
“They smear the poor in the dirt and push aside those who are helpless” (Amos 2:7 CEV).
“You women of Samaria are fat cows! You mistreat and abuse the poor and needy” (4:1).
“You cheat honest people and take bribes; you rob the poor of justice” (5:12).
“You people crush those in need and wipe out the poor. You say to yourselves…We can’t wait to cheat and charge high prices for the grain we sell. We will use dishonest scales and mix dust in the grain. Those who are needy and poor don’t have any money. We will make them our slaves for the price of a pair of sandals” (8:4-9).
God’s economic indicators
In Old Testament situations, at least, the economy of a nation didn’t factor into God’s judgment, unless movers and shakers—as Amos put it—got rich by being:
Good economy or bad, these are the measure of a nation on the brink of disaster–in Old Testament times, if not today.
Which raises another question: Does God still punish nations that go to worship services one day a week, or less, but then spend the rest of the time living like the devil?
We’ll probably have to wait until heaven to find out. In the meantime, when it all comes tumbling down—as it eventually will—survivors will be left to wonder why.
Morality matters. Decency counts for something more important than the Gross Domestic Product.
Among leaders, first of all. Among citizens, most of all.
In Bible times, at least.
I think about this when I hear someone say they’re going to cast their vote for a strong economy. No matter who’s running for what.
Studying Bible history messes with us like that. It affects how we live.