Amos 8:3-6 "In that day," declares the Sovereign Lord, "the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies — flung everywhere! Silence!" Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"— skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
With all the right religious rituals going on the Temple, why was Israel still engaged in unethical practices in the marketplace? They sang songs of praise to the Lord on the Sabbath but their religion was not translated into ethical conduct in the marketplace. Even while they were in the temple singing their religious songs, their minds were not focused on God but on Mammon--basically how to maximize their profits. They just couldn't wait to get back to the real business of making money. They employed unethical means like under-delivering (using dishonest scales), over-pricing (maximising profits rather than providing value for money) and exploiting the poor and needy (taking advantage of their powerlessness), and deceptive marketing (selling wheat mixed with chaff as 100% pure wheat).
When the profit takes priority over people, we are in a position of attracting divine wrath, not divine favour. Grace did not protect Israel from God's judgment; neither would it protect the Church from God's judgment if our marketplace practices are profit-driven rather than people-focused. Prosperity is not always a sign of divine favour because it is entirely possible to prosper through illegal and immoral business methods. At the end of the day, God judges us by looking at our hearts--no matter what may be doing in church on Sunday. The apostle James writes in James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).
When I was in the prison ministry through Alpha, I was always amazed how religious the inmates can be while inside the prison--until they were released. Then many immediately reverted back to their old ways. I have always wondered why this is so. I came to this conclusion: they did not love God when they were inside the prisons--they used God to achieve their objectives. They used God and religion to get privileges. They treated Christianity like they treated their former religion--just a means to further one's ends. Once they were released, they longer needed God and religion to get what they wanted--so they dropped God and religion as soon as they stepped out of the prison gates.
I have often reflected on why some Christians in the marketplace behave also in unethical ways. I've come to same conclusion: they see God and religion as a means to their own ends -- success in family life, children's education or business and career. They do not love God--they simply use God. Like most adherents of other religious, their gods are not to be loved but used--to bless the adherents with longevity, health and wealth. When our religion is motivated by self-interests, we will justify our unethical practices in the marketplace as necessary tactics to succeed with God's connivance and blessing.
Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37). If we love God, we will keep his commandments: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words" (John 14:23-24, ESV).
So, do you love God to fulfill His agenda or do you use God to fulfill your ambition?
Father, deliver us from selfish ambition so that we may love You with all our hearts, souls and minds. Amen.