Have you ever wondered why you can’t save enough money? Why everything you do doesn’t seem to succeed? Why you don’t enjoy life anymore even at the finest restaurants? There might be a lesson for us to learn from the Jews in Haggai’s day.
The Jews had just returned from exile. Their home land was in ruins, including the temple of God. It was a time for rebuilding.
Though they rebuilt their houses, God wasn’t pleased. Their priorities were wrong. So God sent a message to the leaders through the prophet Haggai.
“Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?”
Haggai 1:3-4 NLT
While the Jews built luxurious houses, they neglected God’s house. While they built new wings and decorations for their houses, God’s house still lay crumbled. Their priorities were wrong. This can happen to us when we only focus on building our lives instead of God’s house. We rather spend on a new car or an exotic holiday while our church remains in debt. We use whatever we have earned on ourselves first without giving our best portion to God. We leave scraps to God, if there are any. We fish out loose change from our wallets and purses when the offering bag comes our way.
You are building your house while God’s house lies in ruins. There are consequences to our behaviour as seen in what God did to the Jews to make them realise their sinful ways.
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!”
Haggai 1:5-6 NLT
God says, “Look at the signs all around you! Don’t you get the message?” And there were many. Their harvest was underperforming. Their hunger and thirst could never be satisfied. Their clothes were useless. Listen to this – your hard earned wages are somehow disappearing. When they neglected God’s house, God brought them disaster to help them realise one thing – God is the source of everything. Their harvests depend on God’s rain. Their enjoyment of life depends on God’s enablement. Their wealth depends on God-given ability and his favour. We need to recognise that everything we have and enjoy is due to God. And only when we truly understand that we don’t deserve anything, we become thankful. We thank God that he is the provider of everything we need.
Often when hard times come, we don’t think that we should give our tithes to God anymore. Since we receive less, we can give less right? That is a mistake! God wants us to faithfully give whatever we have in proportion to what he has blessed us with. When we do that, God will honour us.
God’s house is number one. We recognise that since every blessing is from God and not from us, we put God first in our lives. This might mean giving our tithes and offerings purposefully. Giving is not an afterthought but planned at the start of each month. The tithe is set aside from our salary or allowance before we spend on anything else. That’s putting God’s house above ours. If we don’t do that, God may have to resort to drastic actions to remind us where our wealth comes from. It may be a sickness that drains our bank account, a sudden bankruptcy that wipes out our savings or a general dissatisfaction with life leading to depression. God does that so that we will refocus our lives on him and not our own lives.
Thankfully the Jews obeyed Haggai’s message and started rebuilding the house of God. When the foundation was laid (not completed yet), God sent another message:
“Think about this eighteenth day of December, the day when the foundation of the Lord’s Temple was laid. Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”
Haggai 2:18-19 NLT
God’s grace is so amazing. Even when only the foundation was laid and no crops had been planted, God was pleased to bless them. When you begin to honour God, God will honour you. You cannot out give God. Build God’s house and he will build your life. How will you build God’s house today?