Woe to those who are at ease in Zion…
Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory,
And lounge on their couches,…
Who drink wine from bowls, and
Anoint themselves with the finest oil,
But are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Amos 6: 1, 4-6
I have undertaken a new spiritual practice this year—I am re-reading the biblical prophets. The timing is right. Though separated from us by thousands of years, the enduring themes that weave through most of them—justice and concern for the disadvantaged, greed and the ever widening gap between those who have and have not, and a self-indulgent faith community that loses sight of who they are and what they have been called to do, are as challenging for us, in our time, as ever.
So I’ll be writing about what I’m reading and then letting you decide if and how the prophetic words and imagination comfort or challenge you.
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion… But are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.”
Notice the tension: In the same community there are those who luxuriate on the finest beds and couches and those whose lives lay in ruins. There are those who guzzle bowls of wine without thinking and those who hustle for scraps of bread without knowing where the next scraps will fall.
The prophet is undoubtedly grieved by the gaping chasm of wealth that separates the two. But, he is also devastated by the yawning chasm of indifference for those who don’t grieve the disparity at all. “There are always winners and losers, makers and takers.” That’s just the way it is. (Words almost always spoken by “winners” and “makers.”)
But, is that true? Does it have to be true? Is it the vision God has for us and for the world?
I wonder if the prophet’s cautionary woe rises out of a deeper knowing, a communal wisdom, a Godly vision that understands that, in the end, we rise and fall together; that individual blessing means little if it doesn’t translate to communal benefit; that a community can be fabulously wealthy in material ways and deeply impoverished in spirit; that a bowl of wine was never to be consumed alone, but savored by friend and foe alike—all who long to drink in the goodness of life.
It’s Monday. If you filled up a bowl of wine (or your favorite drink), who would you share it with? How can your blessing benefit someone else today? Peace. Kai