Is money falling out a hole in your pocket?
By Pen Waggener (Flickr: Economic Landscape) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ever feel like all the money you make is falling out of a hole at the bottom of your wallet? I do, and I’d wager that many others do at this time as well. It’s as if on paper what we earn should be enough to cover everything, but when it comes to actually paying for things all those numbers on paper have evaporated into nowhere.
It’s such a strange thing. Stranger still is that this was just what was happening to those who had returned from the Babylonian capture all those years ago.
The Israelites had been carted off to Babylon after multiple warnings from the Lord. They spent 70 years there, then were released and those who wanted to go home could. They went home essentially to ruins, the ruins of their economy, the ruins of their houses, the ruins of what could have been their lives if their parents and grandparents had followed the Lord and stayed, and to the ruins of the temple of the Lord that many of them had never seen.
Ruins, they were living in ruins because of decision that had been made before they were even born. Then the word came that Kind Darius would let them rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord who they learned in the hard crucible of captivity was the one true god.
They worked to rebuild the ruins they found themselves in and yet according to the book of Haggia no matter how hard they worked they still weren’t able to make ends meet. Sound familiar? Like many of us, they looked good on paper, but when it came to actually making a living they were falling woefully short.
“The wage earner puts his wages into a bag with a hole in it,” the Lord said through Haggai when He was telling them to think carefully about the way they were living. The hole at the bottom of their bags plus the fact that they were planting a lot but harvesting little, eating but still hungry, clothed but still cold, leads me to believe they were working hard, but to no avail which means something else was amiss. Something they wouldn’t necessarily look at because when you’re so caught up in surviving, you don’t tend to look any other aspects of life than what’s the physical need.
The Lord told their two rulers, both the governor and the high priest – their physical and spiritual leaders – what the problem was. The people were too focused on rebuilding their own houses, and not focused on rebuilding the house of the Lord. In short, they were so focused on themselves and the predicament they were in that they weren’t even really seeing the Lord. They may have come home to ruins made by others, but their own decisions were keeping them in those ruins.
The people were putting the physical before the spiritual, instead of the other way around. If given the chance, we will always put the physical before the spiritual. This may be why the Lord many times uses the physical to get our attention, which is what He did to the returned exiles. He orchestrated the physical shortfall, because then the people were open to seeing what was really important. Him.
To their credit they did see. As soon as they heard the word of the Lord through Haggai that they needed to focus on rebuilding the temple, they went up to the hills and began gathering lumber. Just 23 days later, yes days, they began to work on rebuilding the second temple.
Yet, the holes at the bottom of their wallets seemed to persist. Even though this was the case, with the Lords encouragement that He was indeed with them, they continued to work on the temple.
Then the day came roughly seven months later when the Lord told them to reflect back on where they were before they began the rebuild. He reminded them that when someone gathered a grain heap of 20 measures when they came back to it was only 10 and when someone pressed 50 dips of wine when they came back it was only 20. He then goes on to tell them that although these circumstances had persisted, from then on things would change and He would bless them.
Seven months in to the rebuild He promises to change their physical circumstances. Not before they began rebuilding, but seven months in. Think about that. They began His work with no promise of a change in their physical circumstances, but because they knew on some level they needed to focus on the building of His house instead of their own, which is something that we all need to remember.
“The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘Think carefully about your ways.’” Haggai 1:7a