Rebuilding the Ruins
Earlier this week I was with Peter Greer of Hope International. He was in town to speak to the faculty and board of East Texas Baptist University about the importance of the board’s continuous focus on the mission of the school and the dangers of drifting. But he also talked with them about the role of periodic self-reflection on the part of the board members individually to make sure they were building not only the school but their own inner commitment to the deeper purpose of the school. Peter’s approach was neither preachy or pointed. It was an invitation to stay true both personally and corporately.
I had the same thought reading the book of Haggai for Sunday School this week. The people who had returned from captivity had put off rebuilding the Temple. It was not rebellion or idolatry. They just got busy being focused on parts of their lives that were easier to do and more compelling. They had not consciously turned away from God but merely drifted into the course of least resistance and taking care of themselves. Other things – practical matters – in life occupied them.
“Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Is it a time of you yourselves to be in living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’ Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. What you brought home I blew away.’ This is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways.”
“Give careful thought.” This is not a condemnation or a “woe unto you.” It is not anger or indictment but more of a diagnostic question. “While you have been building a place for yourself, your work and your family have you left off building the place where I dwell in your life? Have you allowed a temporary break or the path of least resistance to become a way of life?”
Those are signs from God and the symptoms of a shrinking soul. They are signals that we have become distracted from building the place where God dwells in our lives. Is God furious? No. He puts it to us in a way that makes us stop, put down what we are so busy doing, and give careful consideration to our lives.
Every time I go back to the book of Haggai I am aware of the quiet voice of God asking me the same questions. What am I so busy doing that I have become distracted from the main thing and that diversion has slowly become a habit and a way of life? What am I so intent on building that I have allowed the place where God dwells to fall into ruin?
Again, it is not condemnation but an invitation to carefully consider our lives. Maybe, like me, you have become distracted by building other things, necessary things, important and good things. Still, there is the quiet reminder that we have become busy with competing concerns and the place where God dwells in our lives is unfinished. We have put it on hold.
Haggai tells the people to start rebuilding today. Go up to the mountain and bring down one tree. Start with that. It’s the same for us. Just pick one commitment that has been put off or allowed to wither – prayer, fellowship, giving, serving – and begin this day to rebuild.