Being Different Isnít Always a Weakness
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Pri) - Church Schools
To consider that standing up for what is right can make people unpopular.
Preparation and materials
You will need to know how to play the game ‘Simon says’.
You will also need a roll of wallpaper and a plumb line – a piece of string with a weight attached is sufficient.
Ask if the children know how to play ‘Simon says’. Explain the rules and ask the children to join in with a game.
Ask the children how they feel when they are ‘out’ in any game that they play. Point out that most people don’t like being ‘out’. Ask the children if they have heard of the phrase ‘odd one out’. Ask them if they can explain what it means. Point out that most people don’t like feeling that they are the odd one out, that they are different and unaccepted.
Ask the children if they have heard of the story or song about ‘The Ugly Duckling’. If possible, ask one of the children to retell the story, or else explain it quickly yourself. Ask the children how they think the ugly duckling felt when others were making fun of it.
Listen to a range of responses.
Today, we are going to hear a story about Amos. Amos was a simple shepherd who lived many years ago in the south of Israel. He was a prophet, sent by God to take a very unpopular message to the people who lived in the north of the country. At this time, rich people in the north were making a lot of money and looked as if they were very religious with all their festivals, offerings and sacrifices. However, God sent Amos to tell the people to change the way they lived and worshipped. Amos had to tell them that God turned a deaf ear to their songs and music, and that he refused to accept their offerings and sacrifices. God was not pleased with them. The following short story tells us why God was unhappy.
Amos stood in the middle of the market place at Bethel and openly accused the market traders of cheating their customers. They weighed incorrectly and overcharged to such an extent that the poor people could not afford to buy things. Amos even accused them of selling rubbish, but charging for top-quality goods.
God wasn’t pleased with the way the rich wasted money while the poor were treated like dirt. Poor people were forced to sell their winter cloaks and freeze, and some who were in debt were sold as slaves, just for the sake of the price of a pair of shoes. All of this was done so that the rich could get richer while the poor became poorer.
Amos accused the posh women, in their grand clothes and expensive perfume, of forcing their husbands to steal and cheat in order to keep them in luxury. All of this had to stop. God commanded them to treat all people fairly and to be kind. While people were treated as things, God would not accept the rich people’s empty worship. All their songs and worship were pointless if the way they treated the poor did not change.
Amos challenged the people to ‘let justice and righteousness flow through Israel like a never-failing stream’. He told them that actions speak louder than words. Genuine deeds of mercy would do more to impress God than carefully prepared sacrifices or melodies from the harp.
Show the children the plumb line and ask them if they know what it is. Explain that decorators often use a plumb line to make sure that the paper they are pasting onto the wall is straight. Ask for a volunteer and ask him or her to unroll some of the wallpaper and hold it on the wall. Use the plumb line to see if the paper is straight and adjust the paper accordingly.
Amos also knew about the plumb line. He told the people that God would use a plumb line on them and then they’d see how wonky their lives were.
Do you think the people liked to hear the message that Amos had for them?
No, they didn’t want to hear his uncomfortable message. They were doing quite well without him, thank you very much. They certainly didn’t like a poor country shepherd from the south telling them, the rich, sophisticated people from the north, that they were wrong. How dare he do that? Who did he think he was? What made him think that God was giving him such a message? He was only a simple, smelly shepherd in the end, out of place in the middle of a wealthy city. He was an ugly duckling who did not fit in.
Amos must have looked so out of place to the rich people of Bethel. But it wasn’t Amos who was out of line - it was the rich people who were acting selfishly and being unkind. History shows that the people did not listen to Amos’ warnings. In fewer than 40 years, the Assyrians invaded Israel and the Northern Kingdom ceased to exist.
Time for reflection
How do we treat other people?
Do we behave differently towards those who are rich and those who are poorer?
Do we treat all people with care and respect?
Help us to live our lives in an honest and selfless way.
Help us not to be full of our own importance, but to see the importance of other people.
Help us to be like a plumb line and live in a straight and honest manner.
‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’ (Mission Praise, 590, 1999 edition)