There has been a lot of discussion in recent times about the separation of church and state. It comes up in all kinds of places and we see those opposing the church in general focussing to remove any mention of Jesus or God from schools and public places. Well the situation in this section of scripture is similar in some ways, but with a different result.
Jesus Enters the Temple
When Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem, he did not like what he found. He saw the merchants using the temple as a place of trade to sell the bits and pieces that were part of the process of Jewish ceremonies. They sold pigeons, which were used in various of the offerings, and they exchanged money and currency for those who came to make offerings. Jesus was not happy about this situation and he took action.
He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out those who sold the pigeons and other livestock from the templ. His words were, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Verse 46)
Separating the Church from Commerce
Jesus opposed the process of having commerce a part of the church. He did not want people transacting and running a business on the premises of the temple.
From a marketing perspective today, it made great sense for the business people to be there. Let’s face it, marketers want their wares to be where there are customers, and what better than in the temple where the passing trade was great!
But from the Lord’s perspective this was wrong. There is a time and place for doing business and in church is not the place. The church today, just like the temple in Jesus’ time, is a place of worship. That is what its primary purpose and focus is all about. It is a place to come and hear the words of God, to learn the ways of Jesus and to give him praise and worship.
So Jesus was separating commerce from the temple. He drove it out so that when people came to the temple they came to worship God. He did not want their attention divided but wanted them to focus on the Lord God, not a prime piece of equipment or other goods for sale in the temple. Do that other stuff where it belongs, in the market place.
The Wrath of the Church Leaders
This action by Jesus just added to the irritation of the leaders of the day. The chief priests, scribes and principal men of the people sought to destroy Jesus for all the things he had done, and this just capped it off.
It is clear that the chief priests and scribes had done nothing to stand against this trading in the temple. They had the right to do as Jesus had done, but they did nothing. Perhaps they were profiting from it, but that is only conjecture. They would have been incensed for the reason that Jesus showed them up (again) as hypocrites and frauds.
And as for the principal men of the city, these were possibly the traders and merchants who owned and operated the stalls that Jesus threw out of the temple. They were suffering in the hip pocket as a result of Jesus’ actions and so they would be also more than happy for him to go away.
But Jesus was right in his actions and statement. And they all knew it, as did the people who hung on his every word.
A Message for Us Today
How deeply entrenched is the message of marketing and commerce in the church today? Some churches I have been to have books, CD’s music, DVD’s, jewellery, bumper stickers and all kinds of merchandising as they use Jesus to market their wares.
They are no different to the temple of old and if Jesus were among them today he would likely do the same as he did then. Commerce does not belong in the church today as it did not then. The word of God should be freely accessible to all and not marketed and sold at a profit like a piece of merchandise.
As Paul wrote, “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
When the people in the churches are focussed on making CD or book sales they are no longer focussed on worshipping God. When the leaders of churches are more concerned with a profitable bottom line they are no longer serving God. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
Pure and undivided devotion to the Lord is what needs to be brought back into the churches today. I do not say all churches have failed in this matter. In fact it is my hope that it is only a very few. But it can certainly be a trap if allowed to come into the church ministry. Beware for if the leaders of your church are heading down this path, they better be certain which master it is they are serving. God or mammon…they can’t serve both.
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Gabriella Fabbri)
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Seek First the Kingdom of God and Other Teachings
Marketing In The Church
The Christian Value Proposition
Driving Out The Merchants And Money Changers From The Temple
Render To Caesar The Things That Are Caesars