“If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
The people in Haggai’s day were rebuilding the temple with the wrong motivation. They did what God wanted them to do, but their obedience was not the fruit of undivided love. This problem is also addressed in the New Testament, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. He sees the same thing happen: people do their religious duties, they do good things such as financially supporting the poor, but they need to examine their motivation. For, Paul says, you won’t gain anything with all your good works if they are not done out of love.
Jesus also warns against this kind of behavior. He says: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1) It is true that faith apart from works is useless (James 2:20), but works without faith and love are just as useless. God is not (just) interested in outward behavior, but in our hearts. He wants a personal relationship with us. He wants us to be his beloved children, not his slaves.
Does your life bear fruit, not because you try so hard to please God or to impress others, but because you love the Lord?