By Evan Pyle

Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. (Haggai 1:2)


The prophet was calling the people of God to account for two things: First, he was confronting them with their failure to build the house of God. Though not as obvious, he was also taking them to task for the underlying problem of their attitude. They had assigned a low priority to building the house of God. Other things had come before this work to the extent that they had no time to give to the work of the Lord.

Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (Haggai 1:4)

Haggai reproved God’s people for giving their time and attention to living in fine homes at the expense of God’s work. They devoted their energies to increasing the comforts of their homes and completing those fine finishing touches they had done without for so long.

When I read these verses, I cannot help but make the comparison with our own society. In this time of decadent wealth people are spending their time and money (which itself represents time, often of many other people) on increasingly ostentatious and frivolous luxuries, when their needs were amply and comfortably met long ago. Meanwhile, the church as a whole falls into disrepair and ruin, chasing after the same excess that has made our culture so soul-sick. We have succumbed to the same malady that afflicted Judea of old: seeking material prosperity ahead of pleasing God.

Luke 12:15:
And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

1 Timothy 6:9–10:
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

When man separates from God he goes about to establish his own righteousness and to “make a life for himself.” When Cain walked away from God he began building for his own glory. Likewise, the men of Babel sought to make a name for themselves by building a monument to their own efforts apart from God.

Genesis 4:17:
And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

Genesis 11:4:
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. (Haggai 1:5)

Haggai 1:7:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

Perhaps the manner in which Haggai addresses Judah should be the way that ministers address the church. The message is loud and clear: Consider your ways. The prophet wants us to consider what we are doing with our lives. The sixth verse goes on to list specific ills afflicting the people of God in Haggai’s day. His points go to the heart of our spiritual ills today. But remember, the Lord is not rebuking the secular, unbelieving society at-large. He is calling his own people back to godly priorities. It is God’s people who have been infected by society’s sickness and they are the ones who need Haggai’s rebuke. I think of the times I’ve read biblical rebukes and felt indignation toward an unbelieving world that ignores God’s holy word. It’s easy to think of all the other people who should hear this when the rebuke is being directed at me. Since the prophet is speaking to God’s people, I need to be willing to examine myself and my motives in light of the truth.

Ye have sown much, and bring in little; (v. 6a)

People are spending their resources (money and time) thoughtlessly, with little regard to what the Lord may require. Instead of prayerfully seeking God’s purpose for prospering us, we consume it upon our own lusts. Therefore, we reap little. The wealth of an empire is being poured down a hole of wanton consumption instead of being planted in fertile fields that may bring in a harvest well-pleasing to the Lord. Our society is too much like the spoiled heir who has no regard for the wealth he has inherited and sees no responsibility for stewardship beyond his own desires. As a result he fritters away his fortune in extravagance and foolish investments fueled by pride and indolence.

Ye eat, but ye have not enough; (v. 6b)

A quick ride through even the poorest neighborhoods of my city will tell you that everybody is eating. Nobody is starving in the streets. In fact, it seems that nearly everybody is eating far too much. It is therefore ironic that even the best-fed people don’t have enough of what they need in terms of nutrients. Our food is engineered, dead, lifeless and tasteless. So likewise our spiritual food has become bleached and bland, engineered to provoke the right response, but at the core is lifeless and lacking in the essential life-giving nutrients needed by every child of God. Millions of Christians are walking around with that quiet despair-with-a-smile that infects our society. This hypocrisy and unreality breeds an atmosphere in which it is difficult to see clearly. I believe that some of the distaste that unbelieving society has for all things “Christian” comes from sensing this hypocrisy and unreality.

Ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; (v. 6c)

The woman at the well had ample water from an historic well that had watered God’s people through time. No matter how much or how often they drank, they always thirsted again. Jesus offers the only water that truly fills. One who drinks of the water he gives will never thirst again, but it will be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Ye clothe you, but there is none warm; (v. 6d)

This reminds me of the story of the emperor’s new clothes. Though his subjects all commented on the fineness and beauty of his clothes, the emperor was actually naked. In a similar sense, the Church is walking around quite naked, with none daring to say so. All of our own works of righteousness are like filthy rags. The harder we try on our own, the “behinder we get” and the more we fall into the only thing the man of the flesh knows how to do: sin. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). Behind our warm handshakes, hugs and even kisses, an emptiness gnaws at the core of the Western church. The only clothing that can bring true warmth of spirit is the robe of righteousness. Only then is the joy of the Lord our strength.

Revelation 3:15–18:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

He that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (v. 6e)

Wage-earners, the ones who live from paycheck to paycheck, aren’t spending as lavishly on their personal lusts. They are busy earning just enough to “make it,” while those they work for use the workers’ time to amass wealth for themselves. The fact that employers receive profit from the labor of others is not an evil of itself, but they are responsible to use that wealth for something beyond frivolous private luxuries. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people run an endless treadmill as their income disappears into a rat hole. The desperate situation experienced by God’s people in Haggai’s day could have been describing our own times.

Nehemiah 5:3–5:
Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
4 There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.
5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.

Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; (Haggai 2:6)

Clearly, the situation cannot go on indefinitely without a consequence. I am reminded of Peter’s warning and exhortation:

2 Peter 3:10–11:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

Peter is not making a threat in order to mold others’ behavior through fear motivation. No, Peter is simply telling the truth about the future so that we may have a proper perspective about the present. As Peter asks, what kind of people ought we Christians be, considering the current and future state of all things? When I asked myself this question I began a short list that I may refine or add to as life unfolds before me and as need arises. What would be on your list?


When his disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray, he responded with what we call the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer gives much insight into how I should pray. I pray that God’s will, not mine, be done in my life. I failed at building my life in my own way and now it is time to build it God’s way, according to his will. I go to the Lord for daily bread, for that spiritual food I need to keep me nourished in godliness and holiness.


Contentedness is the fruit of giving thanks to God in all things. It is the fruit of recognizing God’s sovereignty and Lordship in all things. Some people fear contentedness, confusing it with apathy. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we learn to really trust God in all things we become content in him. Faith comes easily to the contented believer.

Philippians 4:11–12:
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

1 Timothy 6:8:
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Hebrews 13:5:
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.


We walk through an evil and sinful world on the road to our heavenly home. It is deception to think we can remain in a corrupt situation without being corrupted ourselves. An alcoholic may wish to nobly resist his urge to drink, but if he remains in the tavern long enough he will succumb to temptation. In our quest to build a godly life, to flee temptation is often the better part of valor.

What are our favorite pursuits? We pursue the thing that interests us most, whether it is a hobby, career or some other interest. The person desiring to live for Christ will pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and meekness. All of these qualities are found in the person of Christ, our complete savior.

Finally, those who would serve the bread of life are called to fight. Though fighting is never pleasant, ours is a good fight of faith.

1 Timothy 6:10–12:
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.


The beginning and end of our salvation and walk is Jesus Christ our Lord. He is the only good foundation upon which we can safely build. The houses of the two men who built, one upon the rock and the other upon sand, may have looked very much alike. Both may have been beautifully built of the best materials, yet only the one built on the rock withstood the storm. Only in Christ are we on solid ground. Only in Christ are we building toward a glorious future.

Psalm 127:1:
Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

1 Corinthians 3:6–10:
I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.

We need to build, being mindful of the foundation we are building upon. Furthermore, the Lord warns us to choose our associates carefully.

Ezra 4:2–3:
Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
2 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.

Above all, we must always remember it is the Lord that builds the house and that we are workers together with him.

Psalm 127:1a:
Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it....

2 Corinthians 6:1:
We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.



From the November 2008 issue of The Vine & Branches