Haggai 1:6 (ESV) … “You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”
Haggai’s second admonition invited the people to examine their lifestyle and actions in the light of the covenant God made with them before the nation entered the land of Canaan (Lev. 26; Deut. 27–28). The word translated “consider” in the kjv is translated “give careful thought to” in the niv (Hag. 1:5). It was time for the people to do some serious self-examination before the Lord.
God’s covenant stated clearly that He would bless them if they obeyed His Law and discipline them if they disobeyed. “If you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit” (Lev. 26:18–20; see Deut. 28:38–40).
Indeed, their strength was spent in vain! They sowed abundantly but reaped a meager harvest. When they ate and drank, they weren’t filled or satisfied. Their clothing didn’t keep them warm and their income didn’t cover their expenses. As supplies became scarcer, prices got higher, and a shopper might as well have carried his wealth in a wallet filled with holes!
While I don’t believe that the Old Testament tithe is demanded of the New Testament believer (Acts 5:1–4), I think that tithing is a good place to start when it comes to systematic stewardship. After all, if an Old Covenant Jew under Law could gladly give tithes to the Lord, should a New Covenant believer under grace do less? But the tithe is only a start! The principles laid down in 2 Corinthians 8–9 encourage us to give offerings to the Lord and trust Him for all that we need (see 2 Cor. 8:9).
Because the Jews returned to the land in obedience to the Lord, they thought He would give them special blessings because of their sacrifices, but they were disappointed (Hag. 1:9). Instead, the Lord called for a drought and withheld both the dew and the rain. He took His blessing away from the men who labored in the fields, vineyards, and orchards. In verse 11, Haggai named the basic products that the people needed to survive: water, grain, wine, and oil (Deut. 7:13; 11:14).
Once more, the prophet revealed the source of their trouble: the people were busy building their own houses and had no time for the house of the Lord (Hag. 1:9). It’s Matthew 6:33 all over again! Had the nation believed what God promised in His covenants, they would have obeyed Him and enjoyed His blessing.
However, we must be careful not to turn giving into a “business arrangement,” for our obedience should be the evidence of our love and faith. Christian industrialist R.G. LeTourneau used to say, “If you give because it pays, it won’t pay!” He was right.
The Lord never made a “prosperity covenant” with the church as He did with Israel. In fact, our Lord’s first statement in the Sermon on the Mount is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). God has seen fit to bless some Christians with wealth, but it isn’t a guarantee for every believer, in spite of what the contemporary “prosperity preachers” claim. If we help to meet the needs of others, God does promise to meet our needs (Phil. 4:10–20; 2 Cor. 9:6–10), but this isn’t a pledge of material prosperity. No matter how much God gives us materially, we all must say with Paul, “as poor, yet making many rich” (2 Cor. 6:10).
In Christ & Friends Always,