Winning the Lottery on a Bad Day
For I know how many are your transgressions,
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and push aside the needy in the gate.
Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
for it is an evil time.
Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:
In all the squares there shall be wailing;
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning,
and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing;
in all the vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through the midst of you,
says the Lord.
Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
I have to admit it, I have on a few occasions played the lottery. To many this might not seem like much of an admission. It is a low level form of gambling. Yet, it is still gambling. Our church, among many others, has a social statement against gambling. We could spend our money more wisely by simply saving it. I could have spent my money on something useful. Nonetheless, one day I was caught up in the fever for millions. I imagined taking a bite out of world hunger and having enough for a little vacation cottage. We joked and dreamed about what we would do if we suddenly won millions. My son teased me and referenced the common wisdom that winning the lottery is similar in probability to being mauled by a regular bear and a polar bear in the same day. When I didn’t win, he impersonated the Etrade baby commercial showing his surprise face.
Amos knew about this type of bad news a long time ago. Those who do not follow God, will not know of a jackpot. We who are faithful saints and sinners have hope in that even when things are going badly, we will know of a day when God redeems us fully.
Amos calls us to change our ways of turning away from God and turn to actively carrying out a just world.
May we turn to love God and one another, caring for each other, until that great day when God turns dark against wickedness, evil, and sin–ending bad days forever. That will be the greatest jackpot.