Amos 5:21-24 in the Message: An Indictment

21-24“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want. (emphasis mine)

Now read Amos 5:21-24 in your NIV, ESV, NASB, NRSV, RSV, HCSB, or your Bible translation of choice.

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9 Responses to Amos 5:21-24 in the Message: An Indictment

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    Have to say, I love it!

    If one can lay aside one’s prejudices, “The Message” is a fantastic companion Bible to have alongside a more traditional rendering of God’s Word. If a preacher communicated the contemporary relevance of Amos 5:21-24 to today’s evangelicals from the pulpit the way Eugene Peterson has in “The Message”, we would be nodding our ‘amens’.

    I love Hebrews 12:3 in “The Message”: “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again… (it) will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

  2. TC says:

    Yeah, it’s quite a refreshing read. I fully second your proposed use of “The Message.”

  3. Simon says:

    It is a little bit anachronistic… but I guess that’s the point – to say what the Scriptures might (emphasis on the word “might”) say to us today. There is also a bit of a evangelical bias against “religion” here. I know what the translator is trying to say and I do think it captures the gist of the original text. But we mustn’t think that organised religion is detestable to God in and of itself. I think Amos is speaking out against abuses, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water, which I fear the audience of The Message might do. And in evangelical pop culture you see this theme of anti-religion with Mark Driscoll and Jeff Bethke amongst others.

    Me personally, I don’t read The Message. The key thing for me is that although the Scriptures are ancient and hard to understand in some places, the Church provides the framework in which we can understand them. That’s why I think publications that try to interpret the text like The Message do not necessarily take in the fullness of the Christian Tradition. Also other texts like the “Reading the Bible for all it’s worth” series also start from the wrong assumption – i.e. that an individual approaches the text alone. I really like Gordon Fee, but I disagree with his philosophy on how Scripture is to be understood. And this assumption is really behind The Message as well.

    • TC says:

      Simon, what we find in the Message are simply the efforts of preachers to put the ancient text in contemporary–something preachers do every week (in fact, this is the history behind the Message).

      I see no difference between the Message and the more traditional Bible translations here. If the Message is anti-religion, so are our traditional texts. Look at Amos 5 again.

      Neither do I believe a Presbyterian like Eugene Peterson is advocating a divorcement from the broader Christian tradition.

      • Simon says:

        TC, I hear what you’re saying regarding Scripture being put in a contemporary context. I do think we have to be clear about what we are doing, which is why I try to stay away from para-phrases of the Scriptures. At least when a preacher is at the pulpit, there is some sort of distinction between what are his words and what is Scripture. I think this is somewhat blurred with quasi-translated texts like The Message. But then again, all translations involve interpretation, so I do take your point.

        I wasn’t criticizing the translation per se. You can see above that I think The Message probably captures what the original was trying to say. However, I was just warning against those who would use the passage as a blanket condemnation against organize religion. Driscoll does – except for his own organized church, where he assume absolute control. And many other contemporary evangelicals think this way too I believe.

        Perhaps you’re right about Presbyterian Peterson. But I would like more that just a “mere Tradition” 😉

  4. Jim Killion says:

    Timely & well said TC, a needed reminder.

  5. John Radcliffe says:

    Sometimes the Message really stops you in your tracks, and that to me is its value – but we should never mistake it for, or use it on its own instead of, a “standard” translation. My all-time favourite passage from the Message would have to be the following from Matthew 6:

    “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:”

    Of course, if we acted on sales of so-called “Christian books” would plummet. Not that that would be a bad thing.

  6. TC says:

    Simon: Now you see why it is so problematic to be in the pointing-fingers game when it comes to religion, unless we’re talking clear heterodoxy here – so I’m with you, my friend.

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