The Old Testament: The Book of Amos – Going through the Motions When It Comes to Offerings

Mom is very generous, especially around the holidays. Every year her stress increased as she listed family, friends and coworkers for whom she had to shop. On Christmas Eve, or whichever workday came the closest, she loaded up a box of gifts and would spend a few hours in the office passing out her 40+ gifts. The gesture was often reciprocated, and Mom came home with a nice haul.

The extended family also received a number of thoughtful gifts, and since our house was the site of either Christmas Eve dinner or Christmas Dinner, we opened a lot of presents. Occasionally friends attended these gatherings, and since it seems weird to have almost everyone open something except a few, these people received a bottle of wine or a box of See’s Candy.

The holidays could be very taxing on Mom because she went to such great lengths to make sure everyone received a token from her, something that represented that she cared.  Although she did (and does) care, there are times (in general) when we get so caught up in HAVING to get a gift as a token that the actual gift is not well thought out or it’s merely given just to have something to give. But gifts should be well thought out, have meaning, right?

One year, Mom received late notice that friends of the family were stopping by for Christmas Eve and Mom hadn’t accounted for them in the wrapped gifts under the tree. I didn’t see the big deal—which probably was a bit hypocritical, since I WOULD be getting several gifts. Still, even when I was younger, I didn’t see the point of giving a gift just to give it. But it was the holidays and Mom had been raised to make sure everyone felt included.

So I guess I knew exactly where the two framed prints—one of a sea horse, one of a starfish—went when I noticed they were missing from the guest bathroom wall right before the first person arrived.

God has similar thoughts on the meaning behind offerings.

The Book of Amos offers another Bible book with another listing of Israel’s sins.  There’s nothing much new here—other than painting a picture of women (called “cows”) who oppress the poor and crush the needy, the ones who are so pampered they enjoy their lives on the backs of others (4:1). One point that stands out in more detail than previously mentioned is God’s disgust with Israel’s disingenuous offerings and festivals.

Apparently during this time the Israelites considered themselves rather faithful in their devotion to God.  They made offerings, observed holidays, etc.  It also appears that they were hedging their bets, for they were also worshipping other Gods. So when presented with the information that they were not honoring God, they were probably confused.  However, the issue was that they were merely going through the motions (or straight up doing them incorrectly) (5:21).

Their problem: they were making offerings but doing a half-assed job of it; in addition, they were only giving lip service to the way of life (God’s way) they were to be living.

So perhaps it makes sense that God was pissed at them: if you are going to take the time to do something, take the time to do it correctly or don’t bother at all.  True, mistakes happen—people get overlooked, appointments missed, etc.—however, the spirit of something needs to be honored, and when it’s not, the point of it withers.

All too often the emphasis in our culture is the gesture rather than taking the time to select something appropriate and meaningful for the person the gesture honors.

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About virgowriter

Brad Windhauser has a Master's in English from Rutgers University (Camden campus) and an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. He is an Associate Professor (Teaching/Instruction) in the English Department at Temple University. His short stories have appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Santa Fe Writer's Project Journal, Ray's Road Review, Philadelphia Review of Books, Northern Liberty Review, and Jonathan. His first novel, Regret (a gay-themed thriller set in Philadelphia) was published in 2007. You can read more about (and buy) it here: http://goo.gl/yvT24K His second novel, The Intersection, is being published by Black Rose Writing September 2016. He is one of five regular contributors to 5Writer.com. On his solo blog, he is chronicling his experience as a gay writer reading the Bible for the first time: www.BibleProjectBlog.com Follow his work at: www.BradWindhauser.com VirgoWriter@gmail.com
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