Last year (about 5 days ago) I wrote “House of Prayer,” retelling a bit about Jesus’ interaction with the salesmen and moneychangers in the temple. Remembering that my body is the temple today, I asked the question about whether I could truly be called a house of prayer for all the nations or a house of prayer of any kind.
There is more niggling at the back of my mind about this story, though, because the story also involves a tale of greed and money. To be honest I’m not sure if I know how to write about my thoughts. You see, the men whose tables Jesus overturned were providing a needed service. They were entrepreneurs. They provided animals for sacrifices and a way to purchase the temple’s currency. They were a reflection of the culture’s economy and no one saw what they were doing as unusual. They were very much like the people selling soft drinks and popcorn at sporting events today. Even if they were charging a lot for their services, something I can’t state as a matter of historical fact, it wasn’t seen as economically unusual or morally reprehensible by the average citizen.
Could Jesus have been commenting on more than prayer for the nations? Is there something about His Kingdom that rejects a system of buying and selling? At the very least is He demonstrating to His followers that they cannot let money rule over them? Is He showing us that we must be obedient to His call to minister to the poor and needy regardless of the cost?
I just wonder, how much of my life reflects desires that are less like God’s own and more like my culture’s? These men in the temple provided a needed service for people. But they did so in a way that reflected their culture and their desire to make money. Jesus was constantly preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where people don’t buy and sell. In the Kingdom of God people give and receive. We see later in Acts 2 that the believers shared everything and had one purse in common. Jesus says of His own call that He came “to preach good news to the poor, . . . to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed [and] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19.
Jesus also tells His followers this: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. . . . No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.” Matthew 6:19-24. And this: “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:30-31.
And He calls us to follow Him – to do the same.
When I fix my eyes on the monetary cost of what I do rather than Jesus’ commands to do, am I not just like those moneychangers? If money, or the lack thereof, becomes my excuse for not going to the nations, for not giving to the needy, for not supporting missions, for not being hospitable, for not fill in the blank with any command of the Father/Jesus, then am I not bowing at the throne of Money/Mammon just as Jesus warned us against?
God help me.