God’s View on Wealth
We are continuing our series in the book of Amos. We have been learning that justice is close to the heart of God. Looking at Israel from the outside in the time of Amos, one would believe God was blessing them. They had abundant wealth and peace throughout the land. So what was the problem? If you take a closer look, those who had great wealth were obtaining it by mistreating the poor and innocent. And it was because of this injustice that God sent judgment to the people of Israel.
This begs the question: Does God hate wealth? Chris will take a closer look at the intentions of the wealthy and how it is simply a heart issue. We’ll see how God acknowledges different economic structures when he gives his instruction on sacrifices in Leviticus. Looking at these Old Testament passages gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. He is kind and just. He hates the proud and gives grace to the humble. We’re certain this lesson will leave you examining your actions to those with less. Remember, biblical justice is not about equal outcome, it’s deeper and more personal than that, it’s about your spiritual condition.
If you missed Part 1 of this series, Listen Here
If you missed Part 2, Listen Now
Steve Conover: Having wealth is a major topic of conversation right now in American politics. On one side of the aisle, politicians say the accumulation of wealth is good and helps grow the economy for everyone. While on the other side of the political spectrum, certain politicians say individual wealth should be highly taxed, regulated and redistributed to those in need. Who's right? Or more importantly, what's God's view on the issue of wealth?
This is the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, with me is Chris Katulka and we're continuing our series in the book of Amos. Amos was a prophet who desired to reestablish biblical justice in Israel.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. And when we're talking about Amos, we are looking at a time period that the prophet ministered it's about 762 BC and he is ministering to a very wealthy Israel, a very wealthy Judah. Things were going well for them in their economy. And so this is going to change the way that the prophet is speaking to Israel and speaking to Judah because they have money. And the question is, are they using that money the way God intended them to use the money or are they abusing it? And so today we're going to talk about God's view on wealth.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, more than half of Israelis have good credit scores on paper, but that doesn't mean they aren't struggling to keep their heads above water financially. Many Israelis live with a negative balance in their bank account and take out loans to stay afloat. According to the data, Israelis have on average, a negative checking account balance of 25,000 shekels, which is around 7,000 US dollars.
Chris Katulka: Talking about money right now, this is interesting, an interesting article that's come out and some people listening might go, "Oh my goodness, negative checking account balance." And they might just chalk it right up to financial mismanagement for the average Israeli. I'd like to remind our listeners that Israel is one of the most expensive countries to live in, with extremely high tax rates. For instance, cars are taxed at 83% and in some instances, 100%. Even food, buying food is 19% higher than what the average country pays for. The reason for the taxes, the reason it's so much, there's a military that has to be funded for a very tiny country, and so that costs a lot of money. Listen, it's not easy to live in Israel and any Israeli would tell you that, but I think it's amazing, God has remained faithful to preserve, to protect, and to provide for the Jewish state.
We're continuing our series on the prophet Amos. Amos ministered primarily to the northern 10 tribes of Israel and also a little bit to Judah in 762 BC. And let me tell you, God was angry at Israel. Let's just get right to it. From a human perspective, you wouldn't think God is angry if you were actually reading about Israel in the newspapers of Amos' day, it actually might look like God is blessing Israel. Both Israel and Judah felt secure and safe. In the southern kingdom, the Judites felt secure because Uzziah pushed back their enemies to the west, to the east, to the south. He did a great job there. In the northern kingdom where Amos directed his prophetic ministry, Israel was experiencing the height of its power. At this point in Israel's history, there was a buffer between them and the largest empire in the world, Assyria.
And this afforded Jeroboam II who was the King during Amos's ministry, it afforded him the luxury to extend his borders northward and to reclaim some of the lands that are now in the country of Jordan. Israel and Judah were secure. They felt safe, and security often leads to prosperity. Israel took control over the trade routes. And remember, Israel is a natural land bridge. All three major continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa needed Israel as a land bridge to do trade. Israel controlled trade in the world. And as a result, wealth began to accumulate in their cities. Commerce thrived. Eventually a powerful upper class emerged and expensive homes were being built. The rich were loving life, but the poor became targets for legal, economic, and even sexual exploitation. The rich of Israel, think about this, the rich of Israel were abusing the poor of Israel for their own self gain.
And friends, this is an injustice that flies in the face of the law of God and for this reason, Amos has his ministry. It's for this reason, God will judge Israel. Just listen to what Amos says in Amos chapter 2, verses 6 through 8. It says this, this is what the Lord says, "Because Israel has committed three covenant transgressions, make that four, I will not revoke my decree of judgment. They sold the innocent for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the dirt covered heads of the poor. They pushed the destitute away. A man and his father go to the same girl and in this way show disrespect from my moral purity. They stretch out on clothing seized as collateral. They do right beside the altar. They drink wine bought with the fines they have levied. They do so right in the temple of their God."
The innocent, listen, the innocent or the honest who probably sold themselves in their land into the service of the wealthy, which was actually connected to the law. If you were a farmer and you fell on hard times in the Old Testament, you could sell your land and your talents to someone wealthy that could keep you afloat with the goal of earning the land back, buying it back, or at least waiting until the year of Jubilee when all debts are paid for and the land returns to the original families. Here, Amos is showing that the wealthy are selling these people into slavery for their personal profit. They deny the poor it says. They deny the poor justice. The text says this, "They push the destitute away." The idea is withholding justice from them when they are wrong. They abuse women at their own expense. This is sexual abuse. Look at justice is the issue here.
And just a quick word about justice. I don't believe justice is the equality of outcome. I've been saying this throughout the series. It's not a human right that everyone gets the same outcome. Justice is a term we need to reclaim. It's an important term because justice is extremely biblical. All throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, justice matters. But see, this is biblical justice and biblical justice can be extremely complex. It understands that the poor, the helpless, the needy, and those who can't speak for themselves do exist. It understands that the rich and the wealthy, they exist as well, but biblical justice isn't just about money and who has more or who has less. Biblical justice is deeper than that. It's a spiritual condition.
And last week we looked at how the prophet Amos announced judgment on Israel because of their boastful complacency. The wealthy abused the poor and they were okay with it and they became complacent. And from this complacency, they lorded over the poor with their luxurious indulgence. While the poor were suffering, just listen to what Amos says in Amos chapter 6 verses 4 through 7 about the rich. Listen to what he says. He says, "The rich, they lie on beds decorated with ivory and sprawl out on their couches. They eat lambs from the flock and calves from the middle of the pen. They sing to the tune of stringed instruments like David. They invent musical instruments. They drink wine from sacrificial bowls and pour the very best oils on themselves. Yet they are not concerned over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore they will now be the first to go into exile and their religious banquets where they sprawl on couches will end."
God is saying the wealthiest are abusing the law for their own gain on the backs of those who can't help themselves. Let me ask you this, it sounds like God is really going after the rich here. He's really going after the wealthy. Is Amos saying to us in his prophetic speech here it in his prophecy to us, is Amos saying that wealth is wrong? Is God condemning wealth? Well see, I don't think this is where God is going here. I don't think God is condemning wealth. It's interesting because when you open the book of Leviticus, the first seven chapters deal with sacrifices. Surprise, Leviticus talks about sacrifices. But it's interesting because there is a series of sacrifices that are laid out for the worshiper. The moment you open up to Leviticus chapter 1, we jump right into sacrifices, the whole burnt offering. Then we go to the fellowship offerings and the sin and the transgression offerings, and as you go through each of these offerings, you see that a worshiper has a chance to offer several different types of sacrifices. A bull or a goat or a lamb or a bird.
Listen, God did this on purpose because God wants everyone of all socioeconomic backgrounds to worship Him. God wants everyone to bring their best offering to Him. The wealthiest would bring a bull. And folks, this is a very expensive animal. A bull could feed a family for a very long time, there was a lot of wealth wrapped up into a bull. And so the wealthy would bring a bull to the Lord for a whole burnt offering. The middle class could bring a goat or a lamb to offer to the Lord. The poor could even bring a bird or even grain as some scholars believe. The point is this, God doesn't condemn the wealthy. God doesn't consider wealth a sin, the demands on the wealthy are certainly greater in the sacrificial system. The wealthy were called to provide a greater sacrifice to give their best to the Lord, the more expensive sacrifice, but the same could be said for the poor. They were also called to give their best.
See, justice in God's eyes is that all people have the ability to bring their best to the Lord. That is justice. Each offering, whether it was a huge bull or a goat or a lamb or a bird or grain, if it was offered up and the worshipers heart was in the right place. I love this. After every time each animal is listed, a bull, a goat, a lamb, a bird or grain, it says that it was a pleasing aroma to the Lord. See, the value of money in the eyes of God isn't the same value humans place on it. God doesn't keep track of our currency values. He's not monitoring our stock markets like we do or how well our 401Ks are doing, the same way we monitor our 401K.
See, God's value isn't a dollar sign. God's value is actually wrapped up in the heart. And these Israelites are facing God's judgment according to Amos, because instead of presenting their finest to God as they were commanded to do, the wealthy were presenting the finest to themselves at the expense of others. Let me repeat that. The wealthiest we're presenting the finest, did you hear that back in Amos chapter six? That they were presenting the finest to themselves at the expense of others. And this is important because this flies in the face of what the law teaches. Jesus even says that the law hangs on these two vital commandments, love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. When we're talking about going against and abusing others so that we can benefit, that flies in the face of loving your neighbor as yourself or keeping the commandments to love the Lord your God.
Now listen, when we come back, I want to share a story with you because I want to show you that I don't think God is against wealth at all. It's more about the issue of the heart and when we come back, I want to share the story of the wealthiest businessman in Singapore and where he places his value, so stick around.
Steve Conover: The minor prophets are a treasure trove of practical truths and timeless messages that speak to the human condition. During the eighth century BC, Hosea, Amos and Micah warned that the Jewish people's rejection of God would surely bring His judgment. In his book, The Ruin and Restoration of Israel, David Levy paints a moving picture of God's deep love for His people and the hope of their restoration, as he walks through the minor prophets, Hosea, Amos and Micah. To order your copy of The Ruin and Restoration of Israel by David Levy, visit us at foiradio.org, that's foiradio.org. We'll have the link on our homepage or you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940 and someone will return your call during our regular business hours. Again, that's (888) 343-6940. To order in Canada, call (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, that's (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Welcome back everyone. We're continuing our discussion on Amos, a prophet who is calling out the wealthy Israelites, not because of how much money they had, but because of the way they were abusing their power and influence in the way they were using the poor Israelites for their own financial gain and for their own pleasure. And friends, this is an unjust act and let me tell you, God is using Amos to let those corrupt Israelites know justice is coming. Friends, let me just remind you of something. God will always bring His justice. It's inevitable, but what's important to remember is that wealth here isn't the injustice. It's the abusive power over others that Amos is really frustrated with and that really comes across in his prophecy. Listen, Jesus says in Matthew chapter 19 verses 23 and 24 He says this, "I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Again I say, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God."
Jesus says this for a reason. The wealthy are dependent on no one for anything. No dependency means in their mind they have no need for God. And Jesus contrasts this in the beatitudes when He says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to them." Listen, Jesus is referring to the same idea here. He's referencing the same idea that's behind this, the eye of the camel statement. The poor in spirit are blessed and the kingdom of God belongs to them because Jesus says their dependency is completely on the Lord. See, when you're poor, poor in spirit, you're dependent on God, but when you're wealthy, the idea of wealth is you're dependent on nobody.
Now again, Jesus isn't saying that the wealthy can't enter into the kingdom of heaven, but that the wealthy need to do more to check their positions of power and where they place their dependency. Is it on money or is it on the Lord? A few weeks ago I was reading the news and I saw a headline that said this, "Singapore's richest man says, 'Missing piece was God through Jesus Christ.'"
Well, listen, I'm reading that and now you've got my attention. The article begins like this. The wealthiest billionaire in Singapore says he values his relationship with Jesus Christ more than anything else after years of searching. He continued by saying, "I was always in search for a better life, a better purpose, a better me, a better everything. I was just looking at all the wrong things, but when I realized there is no better me or better things without Jesus, then it all snapped into place. Maybe we have to look deeper." He says, "I treasure my faith more than anything, so I wish for everyone to have that same peace and joy. It sure beats a lot of money and material things that you may have."
What an amazing statement from the wealthiest billionaire in Singapore. When you value money more than God and you're willing to use people to make your life better at their expense, you're just acting unjustly. It's unbiblical. And it's interesting, God says that these people who do this, they hate the one who upholds justice in the court and detests the one who tells the truth. Through the prophet Amos, God calls Israel to repent, to turn back to Him and to value good over evil and to uphold justice for everyone. Friends listen, the issue isn't how much money you have in your account. The issue is how much you value and depend on the Lord. Remember, the Lord looks at the currency of the heart. Not the currency of the wallet.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenaged Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collected writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: Recently I unintentionally walked home by a different route, through Mea She'arim, the most religious quarter of Jerusalem. I was shocked when I saw three young religious Jewish men gambling on the street. I asked them, "Am I dreaming or is it true what I see?" The three looked at me with surprise and one asked, "What do you think you are dreaming?" I answered, "Because the Bible says you cannot serve God and money." They said, "Who you are that you think you can tell us what to do? We have our heads covered, but your head is uncovered like the goyim." They were calling me a Gentile. I replied, "You think you must please God by covering her heads, but He desires your hearts to be covered with flesh and not stone." At this one said, "Tell us who you are." "I am a Jew who is saved and believes in the living God," I said. Someone responded, "You think you must tell us how to live? We have enough teachers." I said, "But there is no one to tell you the truth about the Lord."
They began to curse me, but the Lord had told us, “bless those that curse you.” As they were shouting, an elderly rabbi walked by. He was ashamed of their behavior and invited me to sit with him. The rabbi said, "Tell me who you are." I responded, "I believe in God and have been born again." "What?" he exclaimed. "You cannot mean you were dead and are alive again." "Yes, I was dead in sin and now I am alive because I am born again to the spirit." He leaned close and said, "Please speak quietly. Even the walls have ears in this place." He seemed thirsty for God's word. He continued, "I was born in Mea She'arim. I know every stone in this place because I've never left this area. I am the seventh generation of my family to be born in Israel and I was educated here in Jerusalem." I told him, "I am sorry that you have lived all your life in darkness without God. Man walks in darkness. You can see with your own eyes the picture before you. Now they are gambling and after that, who knows."
"How can we stop this?" he asked. "By trusting Messiah Jesus and following Him in the waters of baptism." "What?" he exclaimed, "Never. This is what the traders do." "To become born again and receive the Holy Spirit," I told him, "you must give your heart to the Lord. Baptism is a sign that you have received Jesus as your Savior." He did not want to hear about the Holy Spirit, so I asked, "Would you like to hear what our prophets have written about the Holy Spirit?" "Yes," he replied.
I gladly read Ezekiel 36, verses 25 through 27. "How do you know these things?" he asked. "Because I am walking in the light," I replied. He told me, "I have lived my whole life here. Do you want me to leave this place now?" I responded, "How long will you continue in darkness? Do you want future generations to live in darkness also? Remember that Moses went to Pharaoh even though he was afraid because the Lord promised to go with him." He was close to crying and wanted to hear more. I pleaded, "My dear friend, leave all this darkness behind you and let us walk together in the light of the Lord Jesus who died for you." Before he left I said, "Remember no more darkness." To which he replied, "Only light."
I thank the Lord He was with me and directed my path to that place. I pray this dear old rabbi and the three young men will come to know the true light of the world.
Steve Conover: We're glad you joined us today and we'll continue looking at prophetic justice in the book of Amos next week. Chris, where are we headed?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, it wasn't looking pretty for Israel here. In Amos, God is going right after the heart of what the rich Israelites are dealing with, how they're abusing others and God is saying, "Judgment is coming, judgment is coming, judgment is coming." But the beauty of God is that He always leaves us with hope. There is hope and I can't wait to tell you about Amos chapter 9 next week.
Steve Conover: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry has been sharing the love of the Messiah and supporting Israel and the Jewish people since 1938. If you feel led to support our work or you simply want to reach out to us, visit foiradio.org, that's foiradio.org. In the United States, you can call our listener line at (888) 343-6940. Again, that's (888) 343-6940 or you can write to us at FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Call our Canada office at (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, that's (888) 664-2584. And please let us know where you're listening when you call or write.
Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern, engineered by Bob Beebe. And our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Christian ministry, communicating biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while fostering solidarity with the Jewish people.
The Ruin and Restoration of Israel
By David M. Levy
In his book, The Ruin and Restoration of Israel, David Levy paints a moving picture of God’s deep love for the Jewish people as he walks through the books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah.
Apples of Gold: You Have Never Seen the Light
As Zvi was walking home, he happened to take a different route. He walked through the most religious area in Jerusalem. There he saw three young religious men gambling on the street. When he confronted them, they started heckling him. An elderly rabbi came up and asked Zvi to come with him. As Zvi and the rabbi talked, Zvi was able to share his beliefs. Like Nicodemus, the rabbi hungered for God’s Word. Listen how God used Zvi to speak the Truth of God in this rabbi’s life.
Zvi’s story is available in Elwood McQuaid’s book, “Zvi: The Miraculous Story of Triumph over the Holocaust,” available at our online store.
More stories from Zvi are also available in his book, “The Best of Zvi,” available at our online store.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.