Hey there! How is everybody this morning? As I write, I couldn’t sleep and it’s about 4am. Ugh. I have a really full day today – an all day prayer meeting to end abortion as part of the 40 Days 4 Life initiative. Today is our parish’s day on the sidewalk, or in the chapel in prayer support of those on the front lines. Grab a cuppa (I’ll be hunting caffeine, I’m sure!) and find a comfy spot. Last week, I bought a house. While I was in that process, one of the daily Scripture readings was from Haggai, talking about building houses. Seems like housing was the theme for the week!
Everybody needs a house. Hopefully we can make it into a home, and not just a simple structure. We put time, effort and sometimes money into it so it becomes a reflection of who we are. We want our homes to be peaceful, joyful and secure places of comfort. I’m hoping to do that with the house I just bought in Ohio, where I will live while I’m away at school.
Haggai presented a different question to the people of Israel. He asked them why they were building their own houses, and neglecting the house of the Lord. Have we ever done that? I’m not talking about a physical house. The question is how much of our time, effort and resources we are putting toward God’s house and how much we are putting toward our own ‘house’. We can start by looking at the physical house we own.
Before I get into this very far, let me say something. I have no problem with people who have money and who have big houses, even ones with all the latest decor and expensive furnishings. Price tag and square footage are not a problem by themselves. I’m looking for heart attitudes – where is our heart? Where is our true treasure?
The people of Israel were coming back from the exile, and they were re-settling themselves. They were building houses. Nice comfortable paneled houses. So far, so good. But in the process they were neglecting to rebuild God’s house. This was the issue – all of their focus was on their own comfort and pleasure after all those years in exile. On a human level, who could blame them? And yet the prophet took them to task. God’s house was being neglected. The God who had sent them into exile in the first place, and then listened to their cries and brought them back home. The God who had sustained them all those years, who had seen that they were fed and protected.
How about us? Our society at large is very me-centered. We don’t have to look far to see that God is being hugely left out, if not downright fought against. The God who has blessed this nation abundantly, who has protected us, fed us and kept us, is being treated as a ‘thing’ that we don’t want anymore. He is being treated as old-fashioned, out of touch, out of step with ‘the real world’. And so He is – He is changeless; we are the ones doing the changing for the worse.
We spend 60-80 hours a week chasing the paycheck to give us the huge house in the best neighborhood with the latest in decor and technology. We chase lake homes, new cars, new clothes, elegant restaurants and a host of other things we think will fulfill us and make us happy. But we are miserable – how many of us are getting divorced, seeking counseling, filing lawsuits, or even committing suicide? Our extravagant lifestyle is obviously not making us happy or fulfilled. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s costing us our children, as well. When mom and dad both work 60-80 hours a week, who is parenting our kids? The kids are noticing. They are feeling abandoned and unimportant. I believe one hidden contribution to the bullying problem is that kids are seeking something they can control, something that makes them feel important.
Maybe we need to back up and re-set. I know of at least one pastor who encouraged his affluent congregation to downsize to something sensible, and use any leftover resources to help those less fortunate. He encouraged them to sell the ‘toys’ they rarely used and put that money toward debt retirement. He encouraged them to restructure their financial situation so they could spend more time with their families and in God’s work, rather than at the job.
What kind of ‘house’ are you building? Do you need to talk to someone about it? Find a pastor or priest, and a financial counselor. They can work together to help you get your life in balance and build God’s house along with your own.