Some years ago, I was reading through the Old Testament and came to a short section in the Prophet Haggai that stumped me. So, while on a hike, I began meditating on the passage asking the Lord to show me what it means.
Haggai was writing to the Jewish exiles who had been allowed by King Cyrus to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. But things were not going well.
Here’s the passage I’m referring to:
“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says. Ask the priests this question about the law: ‘If one of you is carrying some meat from a holy sacrifice in his robes and his robe happens to brush against some bread or stew, wine or olive oil, or any other kind of food, will it also become holy?’”
The priests replied, “No.”
Then Haggai asked, “If someone becomes ceremonially unclean by touching a dead person and then touches any of these foods, will the food be defiled?”
And the priests answered, “Yes.”
Then Haggai responded, “That is how it is with this people and this nation, says the Lord. Everything they do and everything they offer is defiled by their sin.” – Haggai 2:11-14 NLT
This passage may seem unusual to us, but the Lord was using an analogy from the Jewish Law to make a point about the way they were living. While meditating on this passage, I realized that the Lord was talking about “compartmentalizing” one’s life.
When we compartmentalize our lives, we define our lives by various compartments: a spiritual compartment in which we cultivate our relationship with the Lord; a work compartment; a family compartment; a friends compartment; a leisure compartment, etc.
The problem with compartmentalizing our lives is that we conduct ourselves by different standards in each compartment. But we also assume that by maintaining a spiritual compartment it somehow makes our whole life “holy” despite the discrepancies in other areas of our lives. This is what the Jews were doing in Jerusalem at the time of Haggai. And the Lord was telling His listeners that being “holy” in one area of their lives did not render the other areas holy.
Then, the Lord asked the second question, which simply exposes the same truth from a different angle. With His second question, the Lord was telling them that by living in an unholy manner in other areas of their lives it was spoiling or defiling their whole life.
The point the Lord was making back then is just as relevant for us today. He wants us to live our lives with integrity. That is, what we say and do in public or in private in any area of our life should be consistent with the holy life that He wants us to live. Another way to say it is that if we continue to practice sin in any area of our lives, it spoils our whole life.
By way of another analogy, if a pound of ground beef spoils, we don’t cut off a corner of it and declare the rest edible. The whole pound is spoiled. Nor would we mix that rancid pound of ground beef with a good pound of ground beef and call the whole thing good. Doing so would render the whole two pounds spoiled. So it is with sin in our lives.
This is why we need to abide in or remain in Christ all the time wherever we are and whatever we’re doing. We desperately need His transforming power in our lives. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Let’s seek to give our whole selves to the Lord, living our lives as a whole rather than in compartments. Let’s devote every aspect of our lives to Him and seek to live for Him and glorify Him in all we say and do.