Amos chapter 8 brings us to the pronouncement of judgment, and the harshest sentences are going to be given to those who were unjust to the poor.
Amo 8:4 Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,
Amo 8:5 Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?
Amo 8:6 That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?
These are guys who are basically sitting around waiting for the Sabbath to be over so that they can get back to doing business. Now, I know that all of us are involved in some type of business, and the exchange of products for payment is not a sin whatsoever. However, look at what these men were doing. They were ripping people off. They were falsifying the balances.
It wasn’t a problem that they wanted to go to work, but it was a problem that they were actually excited to be unfair. I think that this applies far beyond business and commerce. We should not be anxious to do something wrong. We should not desire to do something that we explicitly understand is wrong.
The irony in this scenario is that these businessmen were also selectively following what they could get away with. They knew that they could not do business on the Sabbath without being frowned upon in the community, but because they knew that they could get away with being slightly unfair in the balance, they were willing to do that.
How easy is that? We put on a good front, but we have legitimate issues behind the scenes that no one ever sees. That’s another problem that we need to confront.
As you read this chapter and recognize that these are the people who are going to be judged most severely, I think it is a cautionary tale for all of us. This is something that we don’t want to get mixed up in.
In Ezekiel 45, we are now receiving some more instruction about the division of the land and fair weights and measures during the time of this new Temple. I want to focus on this idea of weights and measures.
Eze 45:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.
Eze 45:10 Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath.
Again, it seems to me that the new Temple is referring to the person of Jesus Christ, the perfect model of the Temple that no one could design on earth. This then implies to me that those of us who are in Christ are called to practice business the right way. Our weights and measures need to be fair and just. We cannot take a little bit extra off the top to put in our own pockets.
I know that there are plenty of people in different jobs who have opportunities every day to do the wrong thing. You can be a business owner who does not treat his or her employees fairly. You can be an accountant and skim a little bit of money off the top without much problem especially in businesses with little control over these processes. Unethical business practices are on the news every day, and it might be easy to justify going along with the crowd. Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I get rich along with them?
However, that isn’t how we are called to live. In this life that we are building under the instruction of Jesus Christ, we cannot separate out how we act at work and how we act at home. All of our life should be life for God. We do business in the right way because God calls us here in Ezekiel, among other places, to be fair.
Wow! There are only three verses in Esther 10, but it gives us a happy ending to Mordecai’s story.
Est 10:3 For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.
Mordecai seemed to be able to bridge multiple cultural barriers. It sounds as if he was very high up in the official government and was valuable to the king, but this verse also says that his brethren, the Jewish people, still accepted him. He didn’t have to sacrifice his “Jewish-ness” even though he was part of a government that was not Jewish by nature.
I think that it tells us something about Christianity today. Certainly, as Christians, we probably work for organizations that are not Christian. I’m not saying that they are necessarily bad places, but we might have coworkers or bosses who might not subscribe to our particular belief system.
Notice though that Mordecai did not have to sacrifice any of his beliefs or his culture. He was still accepted by all of his countrymen, and I have to assume that if he deviated too far from being a good Jewish man, he probably would not have been as well loved by his own people.
For some reason, he was able to have a foot in both of these arenas.
I think that he is a really good model for you and me. We can be incredibly involved in our business lives. We can do a very good job even in a secular business. After all, God did not call everyone to work as a pastor or a missionary. We can be highly successful and be an excellent banker or teacher or mechanic.
However, as Christians, there is another level to our success and I would even argue a higher level of moral responsibility. We also want to try to be a good representative of Christianity as we are doing whatever we do. For example, as a banker and a Christian, you would want to make sure that you do business in an ethical way and not cheat people. Non-Christian bankers should probably do that as well, but as Christians, we know that we need to act like that. You can do very well at your job, but you also do things the right way. We are still called to be the light of the world even in our everyday professional lives; that commandment does not stop at the church door.
Mordecai seems to have been able to do that. He was accepted in the non-Jewish world as a professional, and he was still Jewish. It is possible to be in the world but not of the world (of course, would Jesus have commanded it if it was not possible?). It might be hard, but we can work towards being good representatives of Jesus.
I will see you tomorrow in Job!