Excerpted from Lead: Leadership Lessons from the (Not So) Minor Prophets. Copyright © 2014 by William Attaway. Used by permission of Erial Press.
Haggai refers to the people’s “paneled houses.” This was cedar paneling, usually connected with royal dwellings (you’ll find it in the descriptions of Solomon’s palace and the first Temple). He’s pointing out that the people have given attention to their own houses, but not to God’s. Money was no obstacle for their getting to the finishing and decorative stage on their own homes, but they haven’t even gotten the structure of the Temple rebuilt! There is some measure of affluence seen here; they’ve been able to do in their private homes what Solomon had done in the temple and the palace. They were not destitute; as we read in a few verses, they had seed to sow, food to eat, wine to drink, clothes to wear, and gainful employment, but no true satisfaction.
Haggai’s telling them that they have lost their enthusiasm for the work of God.
He gives them some good advice, and this is the first principle from Haggai that I’d suggest for leaders: Give careful thought to your ways. “Your ways” are your conduct, your actions, and their consequences. In the book of Haggai, we’ll eventually see this counsel repeated four times (1:5, 1:7; 2:15, 2:18).
He’s talking about a total re-orientation and re-organization of priorities in the lives of the people. God is to be first. Those who put God’s Kingdom and righteousness before their own material needs will find these needs supplied as well (Matthew 6:25-33).
What are the people supposed to do?
Rethink, reexamine, reorder, and refocus.
I think it’s helpful to ask the question: to what is my life committed?
For me, I see it like this: my first commitment is to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. After that, I am committed to my wife, Charlotte; then to my children, and then to God’s church. That order is very important; we’ve all seen families derailed and lives devastated by getting that order wrong.
Too many people in our day say their kids are the priority in their lives, and their calendar and checkbooks reflect that. The problem with that line of thinking is that according to Biblical priorities, children are to come third, not first; God is to come first, followed by your spouse, and then your kids.
How many marriages have imploded because children were placed at a higher priority than the marriage relationship? This is a dangerous road to walk, and leaders are not immune to getting their priorities out of whack. Have you ever seen a leader so consumed with work that they neglect time with their spouse and children? How about a pastor who is so consumed with the work of ministry that he or she neglects time with God to do it? These examples and scores more are as real in our day as they were in Haggai’s, and just as dangerous.
Haggai’s intent is to pull people out of their preoccupation with their own stuff and work together for the Kingdom I think a good question for leaders to ask themselves is this: am I too busy to serve God or support His work? To what is my life really committed? In my life, where is the priority of the Glory of God?
Remember: God doesn’t save people just to save them. He always has a purpose in mind for His people. And obedience to God is not optional for those who seek to follow Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength.
The problem for the people of Haggai’s audience was not the building; it was the heart. How important are the things of God to us? What are our priorities?