Amos 8:1-12 is a really good Old Testament reading for the middle of summer. As Amos observed, it’s summer fruit season. The strawberries, peaches and tomatoes are coming in, and the time is ripe for taking it easy.
When I was a kid, our moms would turn us out of the house with strict orders to stay out of her hair until the streetlights came on. A lot of what we did was sitting. But it wasn’t JUST sitting. You might be watching an anthill or throwing pebbles at a soup can or something.
The Dailey lads and I were especially fond of playing pirates aboard my treehouse. Once we got everything ship-shape, we might have to trim a sail or adjust our heading every now and then, but mostly we’d discuss the state of pirate affairs and just sit.
But then again, we weren’t JUST sitting. We were enjoying our life on the briny deep, for sure, but also, we were staying out of trouble. Staying out of trouble was sort of a novelty for me. I was one of those kids who would grab the Cub Scout hat off another kid’s head and run around with it. That’s classic ADHD behavior, but nobody was diagnosing ADHD in those days. They just said I needed more spankings.
Do All You Can!
I never really understood the saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” The Dailey lads and I were about as idle as three kids could be. But aboard our sturdy vessel, we knew we were staying out of trouble, and we were glad we were staying out of trouble.
It was all those roving bands of teenage youth who were active — out there throwing dirt clods at new houses and rocks at windows and eggs at cars.
Some people call this desperate fun. My fabulous bride DebbieMiller® calls it “franticking.” It’s a good word. When you’re franticking, you feel like if you make enough lists and crossed off enough items, then somehow or another everything will seem better. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, but at least you’re not sitting around doing nothing. Doing nothing is for losers.
Even roving bands of teenage youth come by this honestly. It’s something they got from their parents — this thing called the Protestant Work Ethic: Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can. So, do all you can!
The Hebrew Work Ethic
That brings us to Amos. Amos looks at a basket of lush, delicious, ripe-to-bursting, summer fruit, and just beyond it, he sees a bunch of dead bodies. These are his people, the Israelites, suffering, wailing and dying for their misdeeds.
Hebrew law called upon the people to make special offerings and do no work on the high holy days and the Sabbath. These were supposed to be special times for quiet contemplation and rest with family and friends. But some of those folks just couldn’t stand sitting still.
They wanted to know, “When are these holidays going to be finished?”
“Let’s get this Sabbath over and done with!”
“We need to get BUSY!”
“Now, OK, yeah, that busyness may include selling short weight, making short change, and using rigged scales. And yeah, sure, maybe we’re selling floor sweepings to the widows and orphans and calling it bread. But what do you want for nothing, Mr. Prophet? Egg in your beer? This is what made Israel a great nation! The Hebrew Work Ethic!”
Farmers and conservationists warn us, “Once you’ve destroyed the land and the air and the water, you’ll realize you can’t eat money.” And Amos warns his people: Once you have destroyed the laws and the wisdom and the goodwill of your God, you’ll realize you can’t WORSHIP money, either.
“Soon there will be a famine in the land — not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).
Talk about your franticking.
Hanging Out With Jesus
In Luke 10:38-42, when the two sisters of Lazarus take Jesus in and feed Him and take care of Him, Martha puts dinner on the table, makes sure Jesus’ glass is filled, and washes the hors d’oeuvre dishes before serving dinner — all that good hostessy stuff.
Mary just sits there. But, again, she’s not JUST sitting. She’s SITTING WITH JESUS. We have all kinds of words for this — communing or fellowshipping, to name a couple. But one of my favorites is HANGING OUT.
Just last night, our across-the-street neighbor invited me to hang out on the porch with him and some other guys. I consider it a genuine, though unwitting, compliment when someone invites you to hang out. Hanging out means, “We don’t have any business to transact. We don’t have any problems to solve. We are going to be spending time together BECAUSE WE WANT TO — BECAUSE IT IS A PLEASURE TO US.”
Mary understands you don’t need a high holy day or a designated Sabbath day for quiet contemplation and rest with family and friends. When you’re with Jesus, the Sabbath sort of takes care of itself.
So when Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping and wants Him to fix it, Jesus tells her something He could probably say to any one of us.
“(INSERT YOUR NAME HERE) — you are franticking over many things. But right now, only one thing is important. Come hang out with us.”
Then, maybe, Martha realizes what the old Vacation Bible School song taught us: “Jesus loves ME.”
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so. But even better, in Colossians 1:15-28, Paul says through the blood of His cross, Jesus Christ Himself tells us He loves us, here and now, just as surely as if we were sitting at His feet.
When we accept the love of Jesus, we realize the goodness of God and the wisdom of God’s laws. In the love of Christ, there’s no reason for a hostile mind or doing evil deeds. There’s no need to be fraudulent, or greedy, or to take advantage of anybody. In Christ, we rise above the notion that we have to pursue the wealth and power and adulation of this world.
As He did with Mary and Martha, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ invites us to take the better part — the one thing in this world that really matters, the one thing that can truly keep us out of trouble.
Doing nothing may be for losers, but doing nothing with Jesus is the Sabbath.