Thus saith the Lord of hosts;“Consider
your ways.” (KJV) (Haggai 1:7)
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” (NIV) (Haggai 1:7)
injunction to consider your ways—or take a hard look at your lives—occurs twice
in the first chapter of Haggai. The prophet tells the people that they have
their priorities wrong.They’re consumed
by concerns for their own daily comforts, while forgetting to honor the source
of their life, the creator God.
the verse in context as translated in “The Message”:
after that, God said more and Haggai spoke
it: “How is it that it’s the ‘right time’ for you to live in your fine new
homes while the Home, God’s Temple, is in ruins?”
then a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out
“Take a good, hard look at your life.
You have spent a lot of money,
you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you,
are they getting out of it?
leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.
why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:
“Take a good, hard look at your life. Think
prophet is condemning the materialism of the ancient Israelites. And, as we
know, materialism is also a problem for our age—a distraction from the things
that really matter.
of us at New College Berkeley recently had coffee with some U. C. Berkeley
students, to listen to their concerns. Although the students were in different
fields, they agreed about the “materialistic assumptions” in their classrooms. Questions
about deeper meaning, or ultimate meaning simply aren’t raised in their classes.
Haggai the first step advocated by the God-of-the-Angel- Armies to counter
materialism is “Take a good hard look at your life. Think it over.”
New College we offer a variety of helpful practices to stop and “think it over.”
Our spiritual direction groups, Ignation exercises, and retreats, all aid in
cultivating an examined life.
some years now I’ve taught a fall class for New College called “Writing Your
Journey” and have found the weekly writing exercises helpful in “thinking
things over.” Listening to other members of the group also helps. Hearing how
God works in the lives of others, challenges and encourages my own faith.
The early church fathers viewed
writing as a helpful spiritual discipline. In the fourth century writing was
seen as a tool for cultivating holiness and many Christians saw a relationship
between writing and the Christian life. Antony is said to have commanded his
monks to keep diaries “to note and write down” the “stirrings” of their souls.
A few years back I wrote a book
called Finding Faith: Life-changing
Encounters with Christ and had the privilege to read and collect a number
of conversion stories. Some of them were dramatic stories with signs and
wonders. Others were quieter, but equally moving.
We who’ve heard these and other
stories of faith, needed to hear them. Our lives would be impoverished if we
hadn't heard them. They needed to be told. And, we all have stories that need to be told. As the great Frederick
Buechner says, “Listen to your life.” Writing about our lives, even if we have
no other readers, can be an important tool to self-understanding and an
encouragement in our Christian walk.
us in our fall NCB programs, as we consider our ways.