“Seek the Lord and live.” This refrain desperately echoes through Amos 5. The people of God has fallen into the have been blessed—but blinded—by prosperity and comfort. They are confident and secure. They have beautiful homes. Their crops are thriving, and their kids are in good schools. Even more than that, they remain good church-going folk; their piety is impeccable. But their wealth oppresses. They are so worried about maintaining their standard of living that they reject or ignore anything that poses a threat. Amos has things to say about this, as the prophets tend to. Seeking the Lord cannot be confined to formal worship; it spills out into the streets.
Amos warns them that if their religion does not care for the poor, it is deceitful and doomed. God cares so much more for justice than rituals, songs, and offerings that he is willing to consume his own house: “he will devour Beth-el ('the house of the Lord’)” (Amos 5:6). Consider for a moment that our beautiful sanctuary could fall to ruin or irrelevance if we do not seek the Lord and “establish justice at the gate.” (Amos 5:15).
Now to the Gospel. Here comes one seeking the Lord, seeking good. He doesn’t seem to be another skeptic trying to trap Jesus; he asks and answers with sincerity, and “Jesus, looking at him, loves him” (Mark 10:21). But then Jesus pierces the final barrier between this man and life that is true, good, and beautiful: "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). He is blinded and bound by the things he possesses—or rather the things that possess him. Like Amos’s audience, he is impeccable in principle, but wealth has isolated him from the true treasure and source of life. The stakes are too high. He can’t surrender to such a life of insecurity.
This may sound more like preaching than prayerful reflection. But it may be the case that we need to allow the Word of God—“living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12)—to slice open not only our prayers but our pocketbooks—which is not too far a jump. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."