While spending the night in a remote village in Southeast Asia, my teammate, James, slept underneath the family’s spirit house. In the dark of night, James heard the rustling of a rat. A few seconds later something struck him right on the forehead. With half open eyes, he saw a small bowl sitting upright with a tiny ball of sticky rice settled in the well. A very similar item to the one he had seen inside the spirit house earlier that evening. Heeding the warning to never touch the spirit house, he gingerly laid the bowl beside his bed and went back to sleep.
In the morning, we laughed about the image of a tiny bowl tumbling from the house and about what the family would think James had done to their spirits, but in the stillness of the long car ride out of the village my heart began to break for all the false hope that the tiny bowl held. To us it was a small bowl in a wooden box, but to them that bowl held their safety, their health and their hope. Everyday they feed the spirits seeking favor and having faith for their provision, when in reality they are feeding rats.
The Lord asked the Israelites through the prophet Haggai…
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! 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! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvest, but they were poor and when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you are busy building your fine homes” Haggai 1:5-9
We may think small wooden houses on the wall are silly and tribal, but we are just as guilty of feeding rats. Like the Israelites and the mountain people of Southeast Asia we store up treasure, put our hope in earthly earnings and lay our good deeds on a balance of karma. With our 10-year plans and our voracious pursuit of safety and long life, we forget that with a word God can create and with a breath He can destroy. He is a gracious King, Jehovah Jireh, our provider, the King of kings and the Giver of life, but when we build our sturdy homes, our bank accounts, our retirement funds and our registry of good deeds instead of the Lord’s dwelling place, all of our diligence and hopes went into the belly of rats.
So I ask myself what am I sacrificing before rats…and how can I build up the Lord’s temple inside my heart instead?