And here is the thing that woke me up to preaching Amos and other texts, principles, ideas that are difficult for me since I need to hear the message, too. Amos, this shepherd from Tekoa, is not exactly what we think of when we think of a shepherd. We think of a shepherd being in a low order and incredibly poor only able to live off the same land that their sheep and cattle graze from and in the good times being able to have some good, fresh, lamb chops. From what scholars can tell, Amos was a wealthy shepherd. He had a good business and wasn’t hurting in the least. Amos was called to be God’s prophet to the people of Israel. Amos said yes (because what else do you say to God, Jonah!) and stands, addresses Israel and tells them that they are wealthy and treating the poor with contempt and God will bring about their destruction if they don’t change.
Was Amos a hypocrite? Did the people of Israel yell obscenities at him and call him names, trying to shame him into a different message? Did Amos shirk his responsibilities because his bank account was not just black, but bolded? No! Amos prophesied. He spoke the message God had given him. Although he may have needed to hear this message, too, he spoke the word of God. Amos wasn’t a hypocrite, but rather, he was a prophet!
When we stand up for what we know God’s message to be, even though we may be among those who struggle, it is our calling and our heart that will distinguish us as prophet from hypocrite. Obviously, we cannot share a message of grace and call people on the carpet every time they mess up. We cannot bark out the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes and live a complete 180°. We cannot tout a gospel of health and wealth, knowing that we get richer and the world gets poorer. But we can be someone who calls people to serve in their local community, knowing that being among the poor is uncomfortable for us. We can call on our church family to know one another better while we struggle to have enough time with our own family at home. We can drive home the message of being a people who pursue holiness with God even as a sinner in need of God’s pursuit of our own life.
If I remember correctly, God always called those who were in need and sometimes the least likely. Jesus called fishermen, a tax collector, and a tentmaker to spread the Kingdom. And today, even while those who proclaim His word aren’t perfect, they are assuredly called. The church isn’t perfect, but it is assuredly the bride of Christ. And those that are non-Christians aren’t the enemy, but most assuredly on the journey as well. Next time you hear the world “hypocrite”, please take time to measure the context, the speaker, and the message because you might just be in the presence of a prophet.