For the first time in two years, my husband had steady employment. With a 10-month-old baby and a newborn on the way, I clung to the promise of stability. I dedicated myself to readying the nursery, organizing the house, sewing curtains and finding ways to make our lives more comfortable. I guarded our time from intruders with imposing needs and developed hobbies and plans for fun family activities instead.
Another year and baby later, I realized that there is fallout to security and a well-ordered home: I had successfully walled us off from anyone who was not a Christian. I had prioritized a comfortable family life over obedience to God’s commands to love my neighbors and make disciples.
Haggai’s prophetic call drew me back into obedience. After generations of exile under the Babylonians, the Israelites were finally permitted to return to a wrecked Jerusalem. Home at last, they rebuilt their lives and created comfort and stability for themselves. But they overlooked rebuilding the temple, which the Babylonians had left in ruin. The prophet Haggai had stern words from the Lord for Israel: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (1:4). It’s staggering that the Israelites needed such a reprimand. The temple was the central site for worship, atonement, and above all, God’s presence. The Babylonian exile had been horrific, precisely because the Israelites had separated from the promised land (their inheritance) and the temple, where they experienced God’s presence. How could they go on so easily with their lives while the temple lay in shambles?
Haggai warns, “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” (1:5–6). God reminds them that even the fruit of their labor is a gift from Him and they will not find satisfaction in their work if they do not obey and worship Him.
The Spirit of God now dwells in the Church, the living temple (1 Cor 3:16). He is our source of life and well-being, so we worship Him and call others to worship so that they may also find life in Him. This is the mission of the Church. Yet in building my life of security, I had failed to invite others to worship God with me.
Using temple-building language, Paul warns us that our works will be tested when Christ judges all, upon His return: “If anyone builds on this foundation [Jesus Christ] using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work” (1 Cor 3:12–13). In my quest for stability, I had become absorbed with temporal things—home décor and hobbies—and I had ignored the things that would last into eternity. My investments promised a poor return.
So we shifted. We began restructuring our family life around God’s desire to build up a worshiping Church. We invite nonbelievers into our home to show and share the gospel. We mentor young believers with babies crawling around our feet. We teach our children to worship God. And we are finding immense satisfaction in building God’s house rather than settling in a paneled house for ourselves.
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV).