Thursday, March 25, 2010

Too Busy With Our Own House

Title: Too Busy With Our Own House?
Date: 25 Mar 2010
Written by: Conrade Yap

Main point: Chronic busyness is a symptom of messed-up priorities.

"You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.” (Haggai 1:9)

A church leader recently lamented and said this to me. “We can plan so many things for the church, but will people be interested?  The main problem is busyness. People are so busy.

I was initially taken aback. During leadership meetings and planning, it is typical to expect some excitement and some great plans to motivate the congregation toward spiritual growth and love of Jesus. Not this leader. Not this experienced man of God, who has seen many plans that begin well and end poorly. In fact, there is a sense of despondency that feeds cynicism upon cynicism.

The choices we make in life reflect the priorities in us. In other words, busyness is a choice. It is an attitude. It is a state of mind. I do not believe that we are helplessly unable to cope with busyness. Busy or not, is not a question of time. It is a matter of priorities. In fact, chronic busyness is a symptom of our priorities badly messed up. The more we allow ourselves to drift into an aimless whirlpool of busyness, the less we are able to discern the purpose and the priorities we badly need.  We become so busy with self, that we neglect the house of God. When this happens, our activities become primary. Relationships become secondary.

A) Our Messed Up Priorities
The Book of Haggai begins with a call to the Israelites to straighten out their priorities. Twice, the prophet proclaims the LORD’s reminder:

“ . . . . . . Give careful thought to your ways.” (Haggai 1:5b)
“. . . . . . Give careful thought to your ways. “ (Haggai 1:7b)

What is it that the Israelites are to give ‘careful thought’ about? It is when the Israelites are accumulating things and luxury for themselves, to the neglect of God’s holy temple. In 538 BC, the Israelites were returning from exile. The temple was in ruins, and God’s people has returned. Instead of spending time to rebuild the temple, the people were more interested in beautifying their own homes. Thus, Haggai has to intervene to call the people to re-consider their ways. It is a call for Israel to set things right, by first getting their priorities right.
We can live very busy lives. The question is: if we were to divide our activities between short-term objectives and long-term goals, between temporal and eternal purposes, how will our life look like? Haggai is pleading with the Israelites to put community before self interest.

B) Wait! What About Our House?
Wait. Some of us may be asking:

  •  Why should God’s house be of a higher priority?
  • I cannot afford not to work long hours. I need to feed my family, and to pay for my children’s future needs.”
  • What makes you think that the Church should get more of my time? Isn’t the Church already rich with resources?”
I have been in many churches to understand where the typical church member is coming from. I know that what is important to a church leader, may not be the same as a church member. For example, leaders may organize prayer meetings, but often, the people who attend such meetings are the leaders themselves, plus a handful of faithful members. Pastors may offer the best spiritual exercises, but people are too busy to take part. What happened to the rest? Perhaps, that is one reason why few people aspire to be church leaders or pastors in the first place.

Let me suggest that we all “give careful thought to our ways?” Ask ourselves about our priorities.  Ask about the state of our relationships with one another. Ask about our time allocated toward something more kingdom-focused, instead of world-focused.

“So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

I am not saying we always say ‘yes’ to all kinds of church requests. I am asking that we consider our priorities, especially when we find ourselves saying ‘no’ nearly 100% of the time.

C) Kingdom Priorities
Let me put the question the other way. Instead of asking you to consider putting God’s house first, why not consider what God is speaking to you about kingdom priorities? The following table will help to illustrate what I am saying.

Me-First attitude
Kingdom first, as we trust God to provide for our needs
Achievements first
Relationships first
Asks: “What’s in it for me?”
Asks: “What’s in it for God?”
Runs After Things, especially temporal stuff
Runs after God
Non-stop planning and executing
Unceasing prayer, which guides actions
Stingy with time
Generous with time
Complains easily
Gives thanks readily
Cares primarily for own house; self-led
Cares for God’s House; community-led

Kingdom priorities mean that we learn to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It does not mean we do not care about our earthly responsibilities at home, at work or in school. It means we do not WORRY about them, but trust God to provide for our needs. It does not mean we discard our responsibilities. It means we put these responsibilities in perspective, in proper priority.

D) A Kingdom of Inter-Dependence, Not Independence
One more thing. Kingdom priorities also mean that we work dependent on one another. The phrase: “God helps those who help themselves” is one big lie. We need to remove this teaching altogether. It goes against community building. The fact is, we need one another. Anyone living a life toward delusionary  self-independence, is only digging his own pit of loneliness.

Throw away our puny shovels of busyness after our own things. Remove our straw hats of independence. Understand that we are made to be dependent on each other, not independent from one another. Re-organize our priorities, to move from worldly minded to kingdom focus. Give careful thought to what it means to build up the kingdom of God, by helping one another be the best people they are created to be. Let’s build the church of God. Haggai’s message is applicable to us today. The Church of God is not built with stones, but by relationships through loving God and people. Let us prioritize accordingly.

So brother, hand me another brick. Sister, pass me that cement. We’ve got a church of people to build.

Thought:  The Church is not a collection of independent individuals, but a community of dependent sinners accepting one another in Christ-like love.

 “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’” (Ps 122:1)


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  1. Thanks for the thought-provoking, encouraging and convicting post. Very timely for the beginning of Holy Week - and I've shared it with friends on Facebook, as well as on my own blog,

  2. Julie and Steve,

    Thank you for your encouraging comments.