Woe to Those at Ease in Gotham

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria. I loathe the arrogance of Jacob. (Amos 6.1, 8).

For most Americans the top news story this morning was the end of New York City’s transit workers’ strike. One news station proudly captioned their coverage “The Nightmare is Over.” This invokes several thoughts that hearken back to 8th century BC Israel and their incessant culture of entitlement. But, first a couple of general comments are in order.

Let’s be honest.A NYC transit workers’ strike is not a nightmare.A terrorist attack is a nightmare.A genocidal tsunami is a nightmare.A ruthless, despotic government is a nightmare.But, a transit workers’ strike?At worst it’s an inconvenience, but hardly a nightmare.How could we possibly describe this work stoppage with the same word used to describe back-to-back, coast-destroying hurricanes?  Only in America.

Further, a particular woman expressed her relief by saying, “There is a God.” Now, I cannot presume anything with this woman, but her tone indicated anything but worship. If her comment was merely a trivial, humorous quip then she took God’s name in vain, invoking His name without true worship. If she really felt that way then is her confidence in God dependent on running subways? Was there not a God when the workers went on strike? Was there not a God when she clothed two able legs to walk to work? Was there not a God when she had a friend with whom to walk? Such grace is too pedestrian. The God America groped for at 9/11 has become 7-Eleven—at your convenience. This leads us to Amos and 8th century BC Israel.

Israel enjoyed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the 8th century BC. The economy was great, the military was strong, and white-collar employment was at an all-time high. Yet, so was immorality and injustice. Prosperity has a funny way of scooching God from public sentiment. Amos announced that God was not pleased with Israel’s culture of entitlement. It’s one thing to enjoy affluence, but quite another to think one deserves it. Israel felt they were entitled to their summer homes, ivory beds, lush couches, lamb chops, and spa treatments. That was the Hebrew way and anything less was, well, barbaric. God hated such arrogance then and He hates it just the same now. And God dealt with arrogance then the same way He will now.

When a transit workers’ strike becomes a nightmare for a country then we have crossed the line of arrogance. When a people consider as “standard options” what most of the world considers luxury then we have invited Amos to supper again. America is not immune to God’s judgment or excluded from His grace.However, God will not be an entitlement.He will be worshiped as Sovereign God of the universe, not a union lackey.

Let us be ever thankful that God has done more than resolve a labor dispute, but has raised up the fallen booth of David (Amos 9.11).

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