The applause of this world lasts a brief time, but the approval of heaven goes on forever. I like the motto of the person who suggested that we should aim to, “love God, die and be forgotten.” “Consider the path your heart is on” (verses 5 and 7). Think of your priorities.
Chad Bird’s life fell apart, in part because his priorities were messed up. He writes, ‘I went astray for two decades in the pursuit of my ambitions. I drove myself to be an accomplished person. My life had to be awesome. I chased down the career I wanted, and clawed my way up to the position I coveted. I pursued a degree, then another degree, the still another, until I knew more about my PhD studies than the details of my children’s everyday lives. I could tell you Rabbi Oshya’s exegesis of the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 … but I had no clue what my daughter’s favourite stuffed animal was. When my dreams came true, when I reached the fabled end of the rainbow, I found a pot of gold – fool’s gold.’
Are you putting yourself first?
Previous generations thought that it was wrong to put yourself first. This one thinks it’s a virtue. The following is a meme I read: ‘You’ll learn to put yourself first after you notice that other people are constantly putting you last.’ I remember a children’s story from when I was a child. It suggested J.O.Y. was found by putting Jesus first, others second, and yourself last. That doesn’t come naturally to me, but it is both counter-cultural and satisfying.
Haggai opens, verse 1, on 29th August 520 B.C. About 66 years earlier the Babylonians had overrun Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and taken people into exile. Yet 18 years earlier, the new superpower, the Persians had permitted the people to return and rebuild the temple. But, despite the fact that they have now been back eighteen years, the temple still lies in ruins.
This is not because the people weren’t capable of building things. They say, ‘the time has not come to rebuild the house’ (2), but they have been building houses. Their houses! Fine-panelled home (4). What does that say about their priorities? It says that comfort and impressing their neighbours mattered more to them than fulfilling their calling to the glory of God!
What are our priorities? What comes first for us? What building projects occupy our minds most? Are we primarily into protecting our comfort, establishing of career, or earning a reputation? Even our relationships will be unbalanced if we don’t put God first. Put Jesus before people and you will actually love people better than if you put them before Jesus. For Jesus is the source of Christian love.
We are no longer being called to build a temple in Jerusalem. In the gospels Jesus says that he is now our temple—where we go to meet with God—and so temple building involves showing the world how great he is. Is that our first priority in life!