Holes in Our Pockets—Haggai 1:6
If there’s one Bible verse that best fits the way that most people I know feel about their lives, it might be Haggai 1:6. “You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!”
That sense of never having enough is widespread in any consumer culture. The poor feel it, and so do the rich. Losers know it and so do winners. No one is satisfied. There’s always something more we want.
This is dangerous to godly living. The rest of Haggai’s message shows us why it’s dangerous and what we can do about it. We need to be (1) challenged amid life’s difficulties and (2) encouraged amid life’s disappointments.
Haggai ministered to God’s people after they returned from exile in Babylon. The people came back to Jerusalem to find the city in ruins, God’s Temple destroyed, and their ancestral land occupied by people who didn’t want them there. Early on they planned to rebuild the Temple, which was needed for proper worship. But simply surviving day to day was hard, so they put off the project. They said, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” (Haggai 1:2, NLT).
The times truly were hard for those people, just as they often are for us. They had important needs. So they decided to put their devotion to God on hold—just for the time being, they said. They justified this by saying the tough times showed that God wanted them to focus on themselves for a while. Surely they had good intentions to get back to God’s business once he allowed life to settle down a bit.
Haggai didn’t buy it. He pointed out that God uses hard times to teach his people to turn to him. No matter what needs or opportunities seemed pressing at the moment, the people would never be satisfied unless they wanted God most of all. Building the Temple would be hard. Doing it immediately would take much sacrifice. Still, it was worth it.
We too need to hear Haggai’s challenge. Admit it: Life always brings new worries or opportunities. If we wait for struggles to ease or opportunities to pass—perhaps putting a spin on it by calling it “listening to God”—we’re really just pushing God aside. Truly listening to God and following him is difficult. It usually comes at an inconvenient time. That doesn’t make it optional. There’s no better time to put God first than today.
The people in Jerusalem listened to Haggai and rebuilt the Temple, but that presented its own problem. The new Temple was small and plain looking compared to the previous Temple. The people had worked hard and built the best Temple they could—but they still felt like losers. Like us, they wanted more. Their disappointment squelched their joy.
Having challenged them when they were lazy, Haggai then encouraged them when they were disappointed. He told them God had a plan to one day make the Temple more glorious than ever: “The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Haggai 2:9, NLT).
Our lives too are filled with disappointment. The work we do for God often doesn’t turn out the way we hope. Our jobs, families, health, and relationships in this broken world also bring deep disappointment, and we’re right to grieve over these things. But amid our sadness, we must not lose sight of God, who has a good plan and ultimately will not disappoint his people.
The Temple in Jerusalem eventually did reach a new level of grandeur under wicked King Herod, but that wasn’t the future glory Haggai had in mind. Generations of Christians have also seen his message as a veiled reference to Jesus. Centuries after Haggai, Jesus came to the Temple. The Lord himself was there. Amazingly, he came to Jerusalem to die. He came to sacrifice himself in our place, bringing peace with God for all who are saved from sin by believing in him. At the time, his gory body on the cross, overlooking the Temple, looked like a sad and shameful thing. But in fact nothing—absolutely nothing—could have given that Temple greater glory.
The one cure for our dissatisfaction with the stuff of life—our food, drink, clothes, and the money in our pockets—is to be satisfied instead with Jesus. In him, the love of God is glorious beyond compare.
This is the tenth in a series of articles about the shorter books of prophecy known as the Minor Prophets.
Jack Klumpenhower is a writer and children’s ministry worker living in Colorado.