Uncomfortable Truths Discussion Guide - Week 4

CoreGroup Guide | Uncomfortable Truths - Part 4

Written by Sherrill Wall and Christopher Burford

Welcome
Welcome!  Ready for another Uncomfortable Truth?  Our study of the Minor Prophets, a group of individuals who delivered specific messages from God to the people of Israel, has given us an opportunity to confront the same kinds of behaviors and communal practices that still exist today. These include practices related to the way in which we extend equitable mercy and justice to others, how we extend hope and restoration to others, and how we embrace our responsibility to care for others apart from ourselves. That brings us to Haggai’s uncomfortable truth – Complacency is self-centered.


Opening Prayer
Dear God, as we come together today looking at another uncomfortable truth, we pray for fresh eyes and fresh attitudes. The task of examining our practices and our habits in relationship to one another is not one we run to – it’s not easy to confront our self-centeredness week by week.  And now this week, looking at relationships with you, we need your guidance. Be with us in our conversation.  Amen.


Ice Breaker
With summer approaching, some of us are looking forward to some lazy, do nothing kind of days. What do you like to do on a lazy day? Can you spend the whole day being lazy, or do you need to get something accomplished?


The Head
Not much is known about Haggai’s personal background. His message was delivered to the people who had returned to Israel after being taken as captives to Babylon. Persia defeated Babylon and allowed the captives to return to Jerusalem around 520 BC. Those returning got busy rebuilding their own homes and much of the city that had been destroyed, but the temple was left in ruins. This is more than a bit curious since the temple was so central to the life of the Judean community. From the first tabernacle (temporary tent) built in the wilderness, it was the dwelling place of God among the people. Since the crucifixion of Jesus, God has made his dwelling place in the heart of man, so their leaving the temple in ruins would be sort of like us denying our faith.

Haggai 1:7-11  
7 This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says: Take your ways to heart. 8 Go up to the highlands and bring back wood. Rebuild the temple so that I may enjoy it, and that I may be honored, says the Lord. 9 You expect a surplus, but look how it shrinks. You bring it home, and I blow it away, says the Lord of heavenly forces, because my house lies in ruins. But all of you hurry to your own houses. 10 Therefore the skies above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce because of you. 11 I have called for drought on the earth, on the mountains, on the grain, on the wine, on the olive oil, on that which comes forth from the fertile ground, on humanity, on beasts, and upon everything that handles produce.  

In this passage, Haggai reminds Israel of their covenant with God. He calls them to make the same choice that Moses offered to them as they entered the land promised to them when they left Egypt – obey God’s laws or go their own way. [See Deuteronomy 28]

  • What do you think is meant by the phrase “take your ways to heart” in verse 7?
  • What phrase(s) indicate what the people have been doing rather than building the temple?  How does that suggest satisfaction with what they have accomplished?
  • In modern terms, what might we be doing instead of building a relationship (temple) with God? 
  • Another word for self-satisfaction might be complacency. What does complacency in relationship to God look like?  


The Heart
“I only talk to God when I need a favor.”  Sound familiar?  If you listen to music on the radio, chances are good that you’ve heard those words in Jelly Roll’s popular song.  He expresses in the lyrics what is often our own practice when it comes to defining our prayer life and our relationship to God.  We are not unlike the people returning to Jerusalem who got so caught up in building their own houses and became complacent about the house of God.

  • Describe what a relationship might look like with a friend or a family member if it was based on the pattern of interaction suggested in the Jelly Roll song. Why do you think such a pattern is more acceptable to us when it is with God?
  • What are some indicators of complacency in personal relationships that you have noticed in your own life? If you tried to change the situation, what steps did you take?
  • Would you agree that complacency is a part of most relationships? 
  • How would you compare complacency to laziness?   
  • Complacency is also seen in our work environments. Give some examples of how you have observed complacency either in yourself or in others at work.
  • What allows complacency to continue in your relationship with God?


The Hands
The way out of complacency is commitment to get up and do something. Sharon Lipinski, a work safety expert suggests that learning a new skill or a different way of doing a familiar task causes more neurons to fire in the frontal part of the brain and essentially stirs up the complacent brain.  The implication is that there is a biological root for complacency.  When we become familiar with a task, it becomes a habit, and we no longer need to engage in thought to perform the task, thus becoming complacent.  

In his book “The Complacent Class” author Tyler Cowen observed that behavioral patterns have changed dramatically in the US, making us less pursuant of great progress.  He suggests several ways to move beyond complacency. One way is to get out of your bubble. Do this by leaving your own neighborhood, talking to someone you wouldn’t normally interact with, go to a specialty grocery store and buy ingredients for a meal you haven't tried before, learn how to get involved in your community, or buy a ticket to somewhere you have never visited before. Within this one suggestion is the idea that we simply have to be less comfortable in order to grow.  Perhaps we could relate this to our relationship with God.
 
  • Think of a habit you have developed in your relationship with God. How can you change it up? For example, could your place or time of devotion be moved, or the content be revised?
  • How can we remind ourselves to be more intentional in our relationship with God?
  • What support do you need from other people to be less complacent in your faith? How can you CoreGroup help?


Closing Prayer
Thank you, God, for our time together. Thank you for everyone in this group. Thank you that you do not make us guess what pleases you, but that you sent messengers through the ages to show us the way to grow in our relationship with you and with people around us. Thank you especially for Jesus.  May we be like him.  Amen.


Going Deeper
Complacency vs Contentment  – Paul’s letter to the Philippians offers an opportunity for meditation on this topic.  How do we remain content without growing complacent?

  • Philippians 4:11-13 … for I have learned to be content in any circumstance.  I know the experience of being in need and having more than enough;  I have learned the secret to being content in every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor.”    
  • Philippians 3:12-14  … but I do this one thing, I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me.  The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.
  • Phillipians 1:6 … For I am sure that the one who started good work in you will stay with to complete the job by the day of Christ.


References
  • The Bible Project, “Haggai.” 
  • Cowen, Tyler, The Complacent Class, the Self Defeating Quest for the American Dream, McMillan & Co, 2017.
  • Lipinski, Sharon, “Biological Basis of Complacency.


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