The following is contributed by a tentmaker, working in the Middle East.
I hate, I despise your feasts, 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 peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? – Amos 5:21-25
There are aspects of every culture and every age that bear resemblance of God’s intention for the people, although usually with some tainting by sin. There are also many aspects that are so twisted by sin they must be called out, overhauled and restored. This is the basis for contextualization. We contextualize the Good News because there are good things we can latch onto and proclaim to the people that our God is like _____ or He loves ______ just like they do. But there are things that God will judge in each culture too. Paul was masterful at finding the positives in a culture so that he could build a bridge to what needed to be redeemed.
Try convincing someone of anything while criticizing everything about them, and you will quickly have a door slammed in your face. Let this give you some hope if you feel like there is nothing left in today’s increasingly globalized culture that reflects the glory of God. One thing that is great and notable is the emphasis on social justice in business. For instance, if you are using child labor or treating your employees poorly, the media will find out and you will be out of business soon or at least your reputation will be dragged through the mud. In prior ages, this wasn’t even possible. Yet, as usual, even the good in a culture is tainted by sin.
The focus on social justice in today’s age regarding workers’ rights, etc. often exists as a PR stunt to increase profits. Even when it doesn’t, it often exists to move forward a certain agenda such as gay/transgender “rights” that are fundamentally at odds with the way He has called us to live. I don’t wish to indict all businesses here, because there are obviously some where the leadership truly cares about those in their community and wants to do whatever they can to help. As believers, we have a real opportunity here. Look at Amos 5:21-25 and see what the LORD hated in Israel’s dealings. He hated their festivals and songs, their so-called “worship.” He asked them if they had given sacrifices when they were in the desert for 40 years. The obvious answer is “no,” but He wanted them to realize that He doesn’t need their sacrifices; yet He desires obedience and true worship from the hearts. He tells them that they should let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a flowing stream. This would please Him.
We serve a God of justice. He hates greed, dishonesty, extortion, and all forms of social injustice done in the world of business. Let’s make our B4T businesses flow justice and righteousness like a rushing river, not for the side benefit of a profit increase or for our reputation in the world, but so that we would have a positive impact on the way the world functions – that our employees, our co-workers, would get to work in a place where they are treated with dignity and respect, that they would get a glimpse of a restored and redeemed world where things work as God originally intended them to. This is our version of justice. May our employees’ eyes be opened through our love and generosity, so that they may see and savor the beauty of the living God and what He has done for us through Jesus.
OPEN USA supports workers in the 10/40 Window, who are doing Business for Transformation. This author’s identifying information has been withheld due to security reasons. To learn more about OPEN USA and B4T, visit Find Yourself in B4T.