Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, the more altars he made; the richer his land, the better he made the sacred pillars. Hosea 10:1 NASB
More/ better – According to Hosea, affluence produces an increase in religion. There is no better example than America. American Christianity has invented a word for its preoccupation with religious expansion. The un-churched. That’s right. We don’t worry about transformation and community. We worry about getting people into church. Church is big business and marketing techniques and advertising dominates the American religious landscape. I wouldn’t be surprised to find churches praying for another terrorist attack so that more people would flood the pews as they did after September 11th. We worry about churches that are no longer “competitive.” We want to make sure our church grabs the biggest market share in the area. Heaven forbid that we should ever consider combining offices, staff or services with all those other denominations in our neighborhoods. No, we must have a new building campaign so that we can attract the biggest congregation possible.
God has something to say about all this religious frenzy, this penchant for greatness. God’s evaluation of the situation comes in the next verse. “Their heart is faithless. Now they must bear their guilt.” Proliferation of congregations is not a priority of Scripture. The fever-pitched mania about church planting and church growth is not a biblical concern. God is able to do more with one man abandoned to Him than with a million Sunday church attendees. Affluence may produce an increase in religious organizations but it seems that affliction produces true devotion. In Hosea’s time, Israel’s prosperity produced many new religious sites but from God’s perspective, those sites didn’t make one bit of difference. The people substituted location for love of each other. The community collapsed from consumer consciousness.
There are approximately 450,000 churches in America. That’s nearly a half million buildings that need to be paid for, maintained and managed. What nation on the face of the earth at any time in human history could ever afford such expense? Apparently, only in America. Even with 450,000 churches, that is only one church for every 625 people in the country. What kind of impact would the Body (not the church) have on those 625 people if all that money, time and effort were redirected toward righteous living? What would America be like if the Body spent its resources on being Good Samaritans rather than good ushers or singers in the choir? Perhaps we will live to find out. If affliction brings commitment to God rather than to a building, perhaps God will bless America with affliction as it has never known. He did the same for Israel.
Oh, yes, the Hebrew words translated “more” and “better” are ravah (to become many) and tovah (good, better). “Mo’ better” in Hebrew might be ravah tovah. Hosea uses the alliteration to get our attention. Mo’ better isn’t always God’s purpose.
Topical Index: church, affluence, affliction, un-churched, Hosea 10:1