Are We Busy with Ourselves?

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. “Thus says the Lordof hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”

(Haggai 1:2–11, ESV)

It cannot be denied that America is a prosperous nation. And the American Christian Church is as well. The above passage from Haggai reminds us that it can become very easy to focus our attention on our own pleasure and comfort rather than upon the Lord and the work that He has given us to do.

The Jews that had returned from exile in Babylon were at one time so thankful to be back in their homeland. And they were thankful that the Lord protected them from the threats all around them as well. But over time, they slowly forgot why they had returned and Who it was that cared for them and loved them, even in their rebellion and disobedience.

As often happens with us, the returned exiles became inwardly focused and forgot all about God. They not only took care of their primary needs for food, shelter, and safety, but they began to work at restoring their wealth and comforts. They sought to fill their barns, and their homes with an abundance of the good things in life. They moved beyond necessity to luxury. And all the while the house of the Lord continued to be in ruins.

God’s rebuke was about more than the building. It always is. It was about the heart, and the treasure we seek always tells us about where our heart is. When we lay aside the things of God in order to chase after our own pursuits, even good ones, we soon can become captive to the gifts while forgetting the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

Nice things aren’t evil. God wasn’t saying for the Israelites to stop fixing their own homes. The problem was that they put God aside. They probably figured that they’d get around to it, or that someone else would pick up the slack. They may have assumed that God wouldn’t mind, or He’d understand. And as time ticked on, God was pushed aside more and more.

It is one thing when those who do not know God personally forget Him. But it is a greater tragedy when the people of God who have so much to be thankful for simply go on with their lives while giving God little more than the left over scraps. I pray that we don’t treat God like that.

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