Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
Amos 6:1, 4-7
1 Timothy 6:6-19
I confess: I can be one of the most stubborn yahoos on the planet. It is in my nature. Once I have studied and made a decision about something, anything that contradicts that viewpoint is simply wrong - I know it is because I have made my decision and my perspective is fixed. Convincing me otherwise is futile. Actually, convincing me otherwise is frustrating; I can be persuaded - which is good. As today’s scriptures demonstrate, when we become too fixed on a perspective, we often find ourselves at odds with God’s expectations. When God has to step in to correct an injustice, the consequences are not good for those who find themselves in conflict with holy judgment.
The prophet Amos came at a time of dramatic inequality between the wealthy and the poor. The law was in place, but the powerful had turned from it and abused their wealth, creating situations of desperation among some parts of the population. The wealthy were so far removed from the desperation that they either did not or could not recognize the circumstances of the people. Amos reminds those with plenty that the Promised Land, which gave them their plenty, was a gift from God and they had responsibility for all within it. He does not fault them for their wealth; he faults them for their abuse of wealth. He grants no quarter: they know the law and God’s expectation and those who failed to honor it would be the first into judgment.
Paul calls the faithful into contentment when we have our basic needs met. He encourages Timothy (us) to develop spiritual tools rather than bank accounts. Paul’s teaching about money in this passage leaves little to interpretation. Like Amos, he makes it clear that money and having money themselves are not bad things. Those who have wealth should share it rather than let it separate them from others. However, he knows human nature and that those who are not able to find contentment with what they have find themselves drawn into temptation and separated from God by the determination to gain more wealth through whatever means necessary. Verse 10 is often misquoted as “money is the root of all evil,” when it is the three words that precede the quote, “the love of,” that get to the heart of the matter.
The parable in Luke personalizes the fixed ideas of those who get stuck in the idea that social status gives them an elevated standing with God. Even in Hades, the rich man could not grasp that he was there because of the life he lived. He was not in Hades because he was rich and neither was Lazarus in Heaven because he was poor; they were at their appointed places because of their relationship with God. Our opportunity to live as God wants us to live happens when we are alive. Those opportunities are not repeated in death. We must in life operate on faith and not wait for some mystical proof as the rich man sought for his siblings. For both Lazarus and the rich man, the results came not from what they had but what they did with what they had.
A superficial reading of these and similar passages makes it easy to demonize the wealthy, but the lessons are for all of us and our stewardship with what we have. The rich provide the example in the passages, but we cannot afford to ignore the lesson because we are not rich. No passage condemns wealth, but they all condemn the abuse of it and caution about the attitude toward it. Regardless of the quantity of our means, we all have our attitudes toward it and that is why the lesson is universal.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org