What happens when we neglect a relationship? Distance between two people grows, we feel isolated or lonely, and we become indifferent. The one thing that kills love, is neglect. How does neglect affect our relationship with God?
The difference though, is that God never neglects us. He is always faithful in His love, present and attentive to us and nothing can change or separate us from His love. It is we, that neglect Him and so our experience of God changes.
Neglect is to presume, ignore that which you have, to allow mediocrity and let vitality be lost. It is when we allow ourselves to drift away. We say things like: “it is not what it used to be;” or “I don’t get anything out of it;” or “people, or they are not as friendly anymore.” The problem with drifting is that when everyone else is standing still, you are in fact actually moving away. When we allow ourselves to drift from God, even though His love toward us has not changed, we are the one’s drifting away.
Neglecting our love relationship with God was characteristic of the exiles that had returned from Babylon, under the leadership of Zerubbabel. In Haggai, chapter one, God warns them to “Give careful thought to their ways.” Their intention upon return, was to set up the temple of God, so that worship could begin. They had built the altar, but with hostile neighbors and discouragement, further building had slowed down and after 15 years, there was still no progress on the temple.
Instead, they had decided that things were tough in Jerusalem and “The time has not yet come for the Lords’ house to be rebuilt.” (Haggai 1:2) So they focused on building their houses and lived in luxury, while God’s house stayed in ruins. The temple represented the focus point of their relationship with God, but instead of putting their energy into rebuilding the temple, they put their energy into their own priorities, ie. building their homes.
This was their neglect of worship, when other priorities become more important than working on their relationship with God. We do this too, when we focus on our own goals and neglect “working out our salvation” (Phil 2:12), building a strong relationship with God based on the knowledge of His word. The result is that the love relationship, grows cold due to neglect.
This neglect had consequences for the people in Jerusalem. It seemed the harder they worked on their own priorities, the less they had. (v6) Not prioritizing God, meant that their work was harder and less productive. Furthermore, their material possessions did not satisfy them (v6) and whatever they seemed to get, was lost again, or whittled away (v6). They found that although they “…expected much, it turned out to be very little.” (v9)
God’s blessings were withheld because they no longer made Him a priority.
They relied on other things, like their grain, the grapes for wine and olives for oil to bring them security. They focused on economic activity instead of God, who is the true source of security. As a result, God sent a drought to destroy their livelihood and call them back to Himself. (Haggai 1:9-10)
God warned them to “give careful consideration to their ways,” and this is perhaps relevant to all of our lives.
Is the reason that we harvest so little, work so hard and get nothing a matter of priorities?
Have we focused on what we can do, the economic activity we can partake in, without first prioritizing our relationship with God.
When we neglect our relationship with God and allow ourselves to drift away, God will allow a drought into our lives to call us back to Him.
When we neglect God, others don’t immediately notice. Our lifestyle may remain unchanged, and by appearances we still love God deeply. In reality, we have cut our hearts off from Him, we have “cooled off” and things are “not so hot anymore.” The first place it demonstrates is in a dry prayer life.
Neglect is when we fail to take responsibility to “work out our salvation” and we allow other priorities to become more important in our lives, than a relationship with God.
Father, please let me not neglect our relationship and allow my heart to get cold towards You. Help me to keep evaluating my priorities and make sure that You are still the most important person in my life. Let my heart worship and love You above all else. Help me to first seek You out and Your Kingdom, trusting that all the other things that I am concerned about will be taken care of. Forgive me for the times I have ignored You, allowed myself to be indifferent to You, focused on my own stuff and neglected that which I know is the source of life. Thank you for your love to me.