And the Jews passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen, and poured out the changers of money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
John points us again to an aspect of Jesus character. When Jesus turned the water to wine at Cana in Galilee, he did so in response to his mother’s request [or prayer]; and he did so by way of illustrating to us what should be held dear, that is FAMILY. In doing such a supernatural act, however, Jesus gave us an insight into fundamental and practical spiritual reality: When we obey God, the presence of God is there to assist us.
But here we see anger in Jesus, and we see action following that anger. He expressed it and he causes incredible disruption in the process. He physically turns people and their goods out of the temple. And he does it in a premeditated way, consciously and deliberately forming a scourge [a form of several stranded whip] – that is a weapon – to carry out his intent.
He takes a weapon and systematically and violently forces people to go away – people who were simply going about their business as they always had done.
Neither an action nor an attitude we would call ‘Christian’. Nor one we should emulate in similar circumstances, either, I believe. It is one thing for God to act as Prosecutor , Judge, Jury and Executioner; quite another for us as mere human beings.
Jesus was God come in the flesh. A direct action by God himself to right a wrong. And it was wrong – utterly wrong.
What was wrong?
After all, these merchandisers were merely enabling people to do their duty to God, which was to bring a lamb or such to be slaughtered by the priests according to the Law of God by way of sacrifice to atone their sins.
A sacrifice should cost the person making it. And the sacrifice must be entire. Bringing a lamb from your own flock, is to surrender something of yours entirely to God. It is 100% between you and God.
But to buy a lamb or such, is to pay someone else. And yes, you pay the entire price yourself, but someone else is taking a % cut in profit for providing the service. God is not getting the entire price you paid for it; someone else is taking part of your sacrifice to God, and using for their purposes, not the purpose of sacrifice.
There is a commercial transaction going on here when there should only be a spiritual one.
Making money out of the things of God is wicked. It is to take what is holy – that is 100% set aside for God – and make it profane – that is to use it for a purpose other than for God alone.
The Jews took their rules about profanity seriously, yet they overlooked this.
It was ever thus. Religion [ a system of outward practices] has always been prone to compromise the faith it is supposed to reflect and uphold.
And commerce is an age old ally of false faith. How much money is made by religious and ecclesiastical organisations. How do they spend it ?
Certainly there are those entitled to live off the gospel, as the apostle Paul told the Corinthians. The priests at the temple were ordained to take part of certain sacrifices to God for themselves. There is nothing wrong in that – it is sanctioned by God.
But it is sanctioned to allow those whom he has chosen and ordained to serve God full time: they are holy – set apart 100% for God and his service.
Making money out of the things of the Christian faith is quite wrong. And the sight of preachers and evangelists living like the millionaires of this world disturbs me.
As with trading in the temple, this looks like a carnal and worldly system in what is supposed to be wholly free from such activity. Worldly thinking as the apostle Paul would put it; setting the mind on the flesh, not the things of the Spirit. And Paul told the Romans that such a mentality makes a person an enemy of God, not his servant.
And what can we say about ornate buildings and all sorts of merchandising of religious artefacts …
Holy is holy; profane is profane.
We need to know the difference.