Printable PDF: 1-10-2021 Stewardship 1 2021
David R. Clark ~ Haggai 1:1-11 ~ January 10, 2021 ~ Stewardship 1
GIVING TO GOD DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest: 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ” 3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 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.” 7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9 “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 your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We know 1+1=2. But there are plenty of times in life when the numbers just don’t seem to add up. “He was a good kid from a good family. How did he get hooked on drugs?” “They just celebrated their 20th anniversary. How could he just walk out of their lives like that?” “She took such good care of herself, but now breast cancer?
We like to think that life makes sense. But there are plenty of times when life just doesn’t make sense!
- GOD MAKES “MUCH” INTO “LITTLE”
Some of the Old Testament Israelites must have been thinking that. Jerusalem surrounded, their lives ruined, the Lord’s temple a smoldering heap of rubble. Weren’t they supposed to be God’s chosen people? It didn’t make a bit of sense…
70 years later when a small group returned, they must have been thinking the same thing. Jerusalem looked like a ghost town. The temple courts that would shake with the sounds of singing, now overgrown with weeds. It just doesn’t make sense….
The Israelites of Haggai’s day decided to put some sense back into life. Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt. A new altar was installed on Temple Mount. Soon, they would lay the foundations for a brand-new temple.
But you know how people are. Rebuilding the temple was replaced by something that made more sense: their own houses. Why should they prioritize time and money building God’s house when their own houses needed work? This makes sense: Happy wife, happy life! We’ll take care of ourselves now and help with God’s house later. “Later” never came. After laying foundations 15 years went by without any progress.
That’s where Haggai proclaims a message that doesn’t seem to make a bit of sense. The Israelites were preaching a sermon about personal priorities with their paneled houses and their procrastination. Here’s the sermon: Self-first. God-second. In other words, giving to God first doesn’t make a bit of sense.
Humanly speaking, giving doesn’t make a bit a sense and the default mode of our sinful nature is to keep, store, and stockpile stuff, even hoard stuff—as we look out for #1. We call it the good life. God calls it greed. We call it being sensible. God calls it sin.
Did you notice in Haggai’s sermon how the Lord turned our excuses upside down? You plant much, and harvest little… Eat and drink, but aren’t satisfied…. Clothed, but not warm… Money is placed into a purse with holes… Much, turns out to be little… Translation: the people had less, because they gave little. God himself was preaching a sermon about his displeasure, one drought, one holey purse at a time. The God that once fed 5,000 hungry stomachs using only a boy’s lunch is the same God who can insure that a stockpile won’t be able to make ends meet.
We have come to EXPECT a full-service ministry with church, school, pre-school. But can we really expect them to fully function if the paneling of our houses remains our first priority? We have received a vibrant Christian ministry built by the sacrifice of past members. But that’s the past. What about today and tomorrow? Are we willing to prioritize the Lord’s work in order to pass them on to our children and grandchildren? We get the ministry that we are willing to give for.
- GOD MAKES “NOTHING” INTO EVERYTHING
Maybe there’s another consideration. Do you think the people who gave generously to the temple in Haggai’s day went home and God let them freeze to death? After Haggai’s rebuke, the Israelites give so confidently to the Lord and his work because they believed in a God who gave himself completely for us!
Here’s something that really makes no sense. The Holy One of Israel gave himself completely for the sinful ones of Glendale. That’s why it’s called grace. Jesus didn’t give 10% of himself for you. He was in it 100% for your salvation! What dedication did it take for Jesus to leave streets of heavenly gold for the manure of Bethlehem’s barn? Jesus was willing to not even having a house to call a home or a pillow to plop his head upon! Jesus shed his precious blood to redeem you!
In Christ, God graciously gives us ALL things! The one who said: “I thirst” is the one who washed you clean in baptism! The one who cries out “Why have you forsaken me” is the one who will never leave you or forsake you! The one who prays “Give us this day our daily bread” is the same one who opens his hands and satisfies your desires.
This big issue before us is this: Is our relationship with the Savior a priority or a hobby? Go home and spend a prayerful 1/2 hour with your last bank statement. Look at the numbers and see if you can spot any priorities from the way you spend money. Take the time to pray about what you find—and what you don’t find.
You worship a God who knows how to make much into next to nothing because of greed; and very little into abundance due to his grace. You worship the ultimate Giver. God gave you his first—Jesus, the Firstborn over all creation. God gave you his best—his Son, in whom he is well-pleased. Bank on his promises. And then get busy—not building a new house—but building up this current one! Amen.