26 Sep 2019
In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, high commissioner of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, as follows, ‘The Lord of Hosts says this, “This people says: The time has not yet come to rebuild the Temple of the Lord. (And the word of the Lord was addressed through the prophet Haggai, as follows:) Is this a time for you to live in your panelled houses, when this House lies in ruins? So now, the Lord of Hosts says this: Reflect carefully how things have gone for you. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm. The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes. So go to the hill country, fetch wood, and rebuild the House: I shall then take pleasure in it, and be glorified there, says the Lord.”’
Herod the tetrarch had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life. But Herod said, ‘John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?’ And he was anxious to see Jesus.
You have sown much, but harvested little
The latest Michelin Guide for Singapore was announced last week. My Instagram account was inundated when I woke up, and stayed inundated for the next 24 hours – who got 3 stars, who got 2, who didn’t make the list – with all the joy and indignation around it. In my twenties, a Michelin Guide announcement in my adopted cities of Singapore, HK, London and NYC was a big deal. It would have caused me to pause, analyse and make travel plans around. There would have been flights and hotels to book, dinner reservations to secure (a huge effort once a restaurant received or was upgraded a star) and meetings to rearrange, just so I could go eat at the latest and greatest tables, as determined by the gods of Michelin. In my mid-forties, that whole game has gotten old. Looking back, I’ve often wondered, what all that was for? Did I really derive joy from it? And what do I have to show for it now? What was the whole point in the end?
Today’s verse from Haggai is an apt indictment of my former days – “You have sown much, but harvested little, you eat and drink but are not satisfied, you clothe yourselves but still feel cold, and the labourer puts the money he earns in a tattered purse” (Hg 1:6). We’re all susceptible to falling into the trap of mistaking activity for achievement. And if you like food as much as I used to, a Michelin announcement is a catalyst for lots of activity. But not everything that seems urgent is important… or worth doing. And though it was an enjoyable enough endeavour at the time, it all seems hollow now. I would say the confusion I felt last week reading the Michelin announcement, was similar to Herod’s head scratching — you labour to one set of goals, thinking they’re the be-all and end-all of your existence only to find at the end, that it was all meaningless. What was the point of it all anyway? I really couldn’t tell you. And shame on me, I have nothing to show for it except perhaps a little self-realization.
“Do not store up treasure for yourself here on earth where moth and rust destroy it, and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasure for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy nor thief come and steal it” – Matthew 6: 19-20
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the self-awareness to abandon the futile, empty desires of our heart that have no meaning and lead to no fruitful end.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who gives us wisdom and directs our efforts so that we might be a children of God who bear good fruit.