“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. Moreover, wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest. His greed is as wide as Sheol; like death he has never enough. He gathers for himself all nations and collects as his own all peoples.”
Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own — for how long? — and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.
“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life.” Habakkuk 2:4-10
“Habakkuk’s woes are instructive wisdom for the believer. In each woe the lack of faith takes the form of relying on oneself instead of God…
For our success we rely on and give credit to almost anything besides God: our intelligence, wealth, logic, strength, military might, aesthetic abilities, pride of status or birth, tenacity, or problem-solving skills. All of these are gifts from God, and we too easily give ourselves the credit for them and what they enable us to accomplish.
This is basic idolatry. We do not need a shrine in order to worship them. They are worshiped every time we rely on them without reference to God, every time we are proud of our accomplishments without noticing their source, every time we take credit without thanksgiving, and every time we gain wealth by taking advantage of another.
The woes are to remind everyone who achieves something in life to continue to live by faith and not enter the woes of the puffed-up life…
The woes demonstrate the foolishness of living a puffed-up life. They stand in stark contrast to living by faith. The woes are an ironic lamentation for the death of violence and the implosion of unbelief and idolatry. They are most directly applicable to governments that impoverish the wealth, dignity, and security of their citizens. They also apply to any myopic pursuit of power and self-promotion, which will never be satisfied.
The insatiable pursuit of wealth, status, and consumerism is like being drunk with wine. It’s satisfaction is false and gives no true rest.”
James Bruckner in Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004) 243-244.
The pattern of this world is the pattern of basic idolatry and the puffed-up life. As Bruckner rightly notes, such people “rely on and give credit to almost anything besides God.” On that path, greed, which is the desire for money and things that cannot satisfy, destroys them and all those around them.
What does this have to do with generosity?
For years I wrongly thought generosity was linked to me working hard and accumulating a lot and sharing a portion of it. I realized that I looked at what I was giving and God looks at what I don’t give and what that says about my heart. I had so much saved for myself that my life required no faith. I relied on what I had stored up rather than exhibiting faith in God.
When I came to my senses, I realized that heaping up for myself what was not my own because it belonged to God was not only the opposite of God’s design, it was foolish and self-destructive. Sadly, the biggest thing people trust in rather than God is money, and Jesus knows this, which is why He said pointedly that we cannot serve God and money (see Matthew 6:24).
Is that your story?
I am convinced with our sin nature, everyone’s story starts that way, but we don’t have to finish that way, and what matters is how we finish. To choose God’s right way, means we choose not to rely on ourselves, but we resolve to live by faith. The only way to do this is let go of that which we trust instead of God. God does not force us. The choice is ours and He sees everything.
So, what’s the message from Habakkuk to us about generosity? The only right way to live is to live by faith.Read more