Houses of Ivory


“Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,”
declares the Lord God, the God of hosts,
“that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions,
I will punish the altars of Bethel,
and the horns of the altar shall be cut off
and fall to the ground.
I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,
and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,”
declares the Lord. Amos 3:13-15 ESV

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. James 5:1-6 ESV


In the United States after the Civil War, there were many very fast changes in society. Many new inventions came about in the decades following the Civil War, such as the phonograph, the telephone, and the radio. There were new ways to travel such as the automobile and electric trains and trolleys. There were businesses that grew into huge corporations at this time, and some people became very rich and lived in great luxury. There were also many immigrants who came to the United States . They lived in terrible conditions in the big cities and worked long hours in factories that were not safe. They were paid very little for their work. This period of time is sometimes called the Gilded Age. The rich people lived in beautiful homes, and there was a lot of wealth, but this covered up the problems of the poor people, just like painting something with gold paint might cover up something very ugly.

The same kind of thing was happening in Israel when Amos was a prophet. The poor people in the country were not being treated fairly in court, and laws meant to protect and help them were not being followed. The rich people lived in beautiful, big houses, some of them decorated with ivory. They were able to have both summer and winter houses, and to go and live wherever the weather was nicest. In the meantime the poor people were being crushed. This was happening because people were forgetting the Lord and his laws. They were worshiping the golden calves instead of the true God, and also other false gods and goddesses. Amos warned the people that God was going to punish them for this behavior.

It is very easy to trust in money and riches instead of in God. When we have money, we forget the Lord who gives us all our gifts, and we start to pay more attention to the gift of money. When we start trusting too much in money, we might forget to love and help people who are poor. Sometimes we might even do things that hurt the poor so that we can get more money for ourselves. But no matter how much money we have, we can never buy God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus died on the cross for us so that our sins could be forgiven, and God’s love for us is a free gift. We might lose our money, but God’s love for us in Jesus is ours now and always.


Dear Heavenly Father, help us to trust in your love and forgiveness and to use your gift of money in ways that please you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.