Sometimes one would think that the highest priority in the practical life of our culture is to find what is the easy way. For instance, manufacturers are constantly trying to find easier ways to “make the sausage”. With the advent of mechanization, the race was on to make everything work more easily and effortlessly. Products were marketed for their ease of use and time saving potential. This is not a bad thing. I have to admit I am happy to have tools and implements that make my life easier. I cannot imagine doing many jobs around the house without power tools. I remember my dad back in the early 60’s not even having a power drill but using an old fashioned “brace” as they were called to drill holes during construction. He did not have a power miter saw but had an old “miter box” to do trim work and cut angles. He did not have a power saw but used an old handsaw. After he died, those tools came down to me even though I never really used them except for the hand saw from time to time. Now, I think some of those tools existed then, but he did not have the money to buy them. Oh, how much easier my power tools of today are.
So, finding new and easier ways to do things is not vice. Here is the vice: we have come to place so much value in ease that it has become a consuming notion. That is to say, ease has become a goal in itself. What do we often say when we part from someone; “Take it easy!” It seems as if many lives are designed to pursue just that; as much ease as can possibly be arranged. All this technology and all these tools were designed to make jobs easier and less time consuming…not so that we might spend more time in inactivity, laziness, or leisure, but that we might be able to invest in activity in that which might be more important or meaningful to us. Thus, our personal “ease” (of the “take it easy” kind) has come to be a high priority to us. However, that has leeched into our spiritual lives and that is not helpful. The Scripture does not have a lot of good to say about “taking it easy”:
Psalms 73:12 “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.” Psalm 123:4 says, “Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.” Ezekiel 16:49 says, “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy” (c.f. Jer. 49:31; 48:11; Isa. 32:9, 11).
The prophet Amos, was not from a priestly or prophetic lineage. He was a humble “herdsman” from Tekoa; a “non-professional” if you will. He prophesied during an unprecedented time of prosperity in the northern kingdom of Israel, even though they had set up idolatrous worship when Jeroboam led the split of the 10 northern tribes with Judah and Benjamin in the south. He was sent of God to Bethel, where this false worship was established and where a golden calf sat as a representation of their God and their new religion. Amos was commissioned to pronounce the unhappy news that not only would this prosperity not be long lived, but that before too long, Israel would even cease to exists as a nation.
But the southern kingdom was not innocent either. In chapter 6 he inveighs against them, “woe unto those who are at ease in Zion” (Jerusalem, in the South, v. 1). Then, beginning in v.2-6 he condemns both of them as those, “…who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence? Who to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” (vv. 3-6).
Obviously, the metaphors here have to do with “spiritual ease” or lack of spiritual vitality or industry. There is nothing wrong with appropriate rest and relaxation. There is a time for “lying on couches” and enjoying music. However, Amos is talking about the spiritual “take it easy…don’t be too concerned” attitudes of the nations of Judah and Israel. That kind of ease shows a lack of concern for spiritual things (“but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” v.6).
On the contrary Paul says things like “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:12-14).
Let us not allow the blessing and benefit of “ease” to leech over into our spiritual lives. There is never a time to “take it easy” in our spiritually. There is never a time to stop striving, stop fighting, or to become spiritually inactive. Yet, I see today many who are “at ease in Zion”. Don’t be one of them.