21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:21-24 (ESV)
I briefly addressed a portion of this passage yesterday. In this section the prophet is warning Israel that God has rejected their worship because of their sinfulness. God desires true worship and that means more than just saying and doing the right things on the outside. Israel’s sacrifices and liturgy meant nothing to God because it meant nothing to them. They were just going through the motions.
I believe that the church often has the same problem. Some of it comes from our flawed belief that we can actually earn salvation. We believe (or act like we believe) that if we do enough good and avoid enough bad, then we can punch our ticket to heaven. I also believe that many people are just going through the motions because it is what they’ve been taught. It’s our religion. It’s what we do. As long as we do it the right way, it doesn’t really matter what’s in our hearts.
Amos makes it very clear, if the condition of our heart is corrupt, it doesn’t matter how righteous we look on the outside. Jesus had the same kinds of conversations with the Pharisees of His day. On one occasion He went so far as to call them whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones (Matthew 13). His point was the same as Amos. You can be as religious as you want to be but it won’t save you. You have to live a life defined by love, compassion, and grace. That’s what Jesus did for us. He expects us to do it for others.