12Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13“It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ e but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ f ”(Matthew 21, 12-13).
During Jesus’ time it was very common for the sellers to put their merchandise in the Temple Courts and sell. The items they sold were mostly for use in the temple itself, especially for sacrifices. People, instead of bringing things from their homes, would buy them at the Temple Courts and offer at the Temple.
This was very convenient for the devotees who came from far-off places and for the sake of convenience, the Temple Authorities also allowed it. However, in God’s eyes this was a very serious offense and He warned them through His Prophets many times; but the practise continued uninterrupted. As usual, Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law ignored the warnings without any hesitation.
As you know, the Temple in Jerusalem was a Holy place where worship was offered to a Holy God and that holy place should not have become the venue for commercial activities. Just imagine, thousands of sellers and buyers converging at the Most holy place of the city in order to conduct business.
Actually, by engaging in trade, these merchants were converting a place that was set apart only for Worship into a market place. It was utterly a very disgraceful behaviour and an insult to God Almighty.
The sad part was – Those who came there with the merchandise were not people who were very honest, their scales were not accurate and their prices were not reasonable and just. Actually, these merchants were robbing ordinary people in broad daylight.
Lord Jesus had taken notice of the desecration that had been going on at the House of God; but He was waiting for an opportune time to deal with it. Finally, He decides to confront these merchants on the day He entered Jerusalem as the King of Israel.
On that day, Lord Jesus, after entering Jerusalem; went straight in to the Temple Courts and drove out all who sold and bought within the walls of the Holy Area; He overthrew the money changers’ tables and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them:
“My House shall be called a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
In fact, the above verse is a combination of two verses from the Old Testament. Lord Jesus was directly quoting from both Prophet Jeremiah and Isaiah. See the verses below:
7these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”(Isaiah 56, 7)
Actually, conducting business in the Temple Courts was not something new. It existed since the construction of the Temple and the Jewish leaders were the main facilitators of these commercial activities. Even during the time of Prophet Jeremiah, The LORD rebuked the people for engaging in commercial activities within the temple courts. But it continued despite repeated warnings and rebukes; same was the situation even during the time of Lord Jesus.
Anyway, Lord Jesus decides to put an end to this commercialisation of His Father’s House and did not hesitate to deal with the culprits harshly. However, the Pharisees were very angry with Him as they found it to be against their interests. In fact, they were one of the main beneficiaries of the commercial activities that were going on at the Temple courts.
Actually, the desecration of the Holy place was taking place with the blessings of those Jewish leaders. For, them, this was part of the religious system they created to serve God and they convinced the people that – all these were part of worshipping God and there was nothing offensive about them.
Another excuse was that – The merchandise was mainly for using at the Temple, and therefore, there was nothing wrong with selling them at the Temple Courts as it served the purpose of the Kingdom of God.
Nonetheless, Lord Jesus had a completely different view on this commercialization of His Father’s house. He strongly objected to using His Father’s name and His House as a venue for robbing common people.
For Jesus, the Temple was exclusively a place of Worship; where the presence of His heavenly Father dwelt and He wanted it to be like that. He was completely against using the Temple and its surroundings for commercial activities as those activities led to the desecration of those Holy Areas.
Not only that, most of the merchants were very dishonest and they were ripping off the ordinary people who were coming from very distant places for worship, especially during festival seasons. These merchants with the help of the Jewish Leaders were exploiting the innocent people; That is why Lord Jesus says:
“You have made my Father’s house a den of Robbers.”
Of course, we call someone a robber when he robs someone right? So, what these merchants were doing at the Temple courts were literal robbing.
When, we read the story of Lord Jesus clearing the Temple; we might feel a bit of anger and a kind of indignation towards those merchants.
But do you think the Christian church, as we see now, is free from this commercialisation in the name of God?
In fact, at present, the commercialization of God’s work is more serious and grievous than it used to be in the Ancient Israel. Many of the Christian Leaders are way more greedy and cunning than the Jewish Leaders and merchants of the Ancient Israel.
Can you imagine the magnitude of commercialization of the church in the contemporary Christian world? Do you know how many Christian leaders have converted their churches and ministries into platforms for selling merchandise?
What we see today in the Christian world is the commercialization and commodification of everything related to the Kingdom of God which is completely opposite to what Lord Jesus had commanded:
“Freely you have received; freely give”
But today; many of those so-called Servants of God, put a price for everything that they have received from God. They get a copyright and collect royalty for every, idea, every word of inspiration that they receive from God Almighty. They justify this monetisation by saying – “it’s all for the kingdom of God.” Really?
This is just only a part of the whole story. Until the middle of the 20th century things were different, commercialization was very rare. Many were willing to give free what they had received free. But the change started from the later part of the 20th century.
A new generation of Christian Leaders who were brought up under the influence of Modern Technology and Globalization started moving away from the uncompromising doctrines of the Holy Bible. The reason for this shift was – those Biblical doctrines stood in the way of them embracing the new lifestyle offered by the new world order built on the foundation of technology and globalization.
In order to facilitate adaptation and accommodation of this new world order into church, many of these Christian Leaders – including Pastors and Preachers started preaching a watered-down, compromised, gospel that facilitated the blending of the worldly ideas with the Bible based doctrines. As time passed; this blending resulted in the creation of a new breed of believers and leaders who became quite comfortable with Serving God and Mammon at the same time.
Nowadays, the greed for money and riches is so rampant within the walls of the church that every activity in the House of God revolves around money. Ministries have become all about collecting money and spending money.
Moreover, Ministries are now imitating the operational methods of Big corporate houses and Ministry leaders are living like Corporate Leaders. These humble Servants too drive luxurious, expensive cars and own private jets. They too own mansions and take millions in salaries from their Ministries and it is all done in the name of Christ who lived on the face of this earth without owning anything.
Lord Jesus said: “No Servant is greater than his Master.”
However, in the contemporary Christian world, many of the Servants of Lord Jesus think “they are greater than their Master” – their words and actions manifest their thinking and their lifestyle exposes their hypocrisy.
Lord Jesus, when he walked up on the face of the earth, had no place to lay His head. He owned nothing and demanded nothing from the people who followed Him. He gave everything free for those who were in need. He did not collect money and keep money. He did not monetise any of the Heavenly gifts He received from His Heavenly Father. Even the little money the disciples had with them in the ministry were the money they, themselves, shared from their own pockets.
When He sent out His disciples to preach the gospel, He anointed them with power from Heaven; but instructed them not to take anything for their needs; but to give freely what they have received free.
9“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.(Matthew 10, 9-11)
But in the contemporary Christian world, the story is completely different. Many of the Christian Leaders; including Pastors and Preachers attach a price tag to everything they give others and they demand this value back directly or indirectly. They have very subtle ways of extracting this price from their innocent sheep and their sheep out of fear or ignorance obey these Christian leaders who walk according to the flesh.
As you know it is not the first time that we are witnessing corruption and mammon worship among God’s Servants; Bible has many examples for this and often the Prophets of God used very harsh language against these religious Leaders. For example: see what Prophet Jeremiah says in the following verses:
13“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. 15Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 6, 13-15)
Again, see what Prophet Micah says:
11Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” 12Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets. (Micah 3, 11-12)
Yes, as you see above, both the Prophets are depicting a very vivid picture of the Religious leaders of the ancient Israel and we could find a lot of similarity between them and many of the contemporary Christian Leaders.
Of course, these Christian Leaders might argue:
“oh, we are using the money for running the ministry.” Yes, you are right, but my question is:
- Do you need to sell what you have received free from God Almighty in order to run your ministry?
- Do you need to convert your ministries and churches into platforms that sell merchandise in order to serve God?
If God called you out to work for His kingdom, definitely He will provide what you need to do that work. You don’t have to rely on worldly means to sustain God’s work. Of course, there will be times that a true Servant of God going through difficult times, but those times will be short. If you wait up on the LORD, definitely, He will bring you into a spacious place.
From the history of the church we could find many who really depended only on God’s provision for the sustenance of their ministries. A very classic example for this is George Muller, a German Missionary who worked among the orphans in London during the 19th Century.
His biography gives us a vivid picture of how miraculously the LORD Almighty sustained his ministry in times of need. He did not rely on any worldly means to sustain his work; whenever there was a need, he went on his knees and God Almighty answered his prayers without any delay.
But you might wonder why only a few of the Modern-day Ministers and Ministries experience this kind of miraculous provision; the reason is – They don’t have enough patience and faith to wait up on the LORD.
Lord Jesus said – You can move a mountain if you have faith as small as a mustard seed; but those who rely on worldly means do not have faith even as small as a mustard seed. That is why they rely on their own wit and wisdom to sustain their ministries and often end up in commercializing their God-given gifts.
Also, another reason is: When you rely on God – He will provide only for your needs not for your wants. He will provide you enough money to buy a car but He may not provide you enough money to buy a Jet unless He thinks you really need it. However, many of the Contemporary leaders dream big and aim high and a quick way of reaching them is – through Commercialization.
But what these church Leaders need to keep in mind is – The money they make and the fame they create will not last long if they had obtained them through Worldly means instead of Heavenly means.
Anyway, there is a big lesson for Contemporary Church Leaders to learn from Lord Jesus’ response to the merchants in the Jerusalem Temple. As He went into the Temple in Jerusalem to drive out those merchants there; one day, He might come into your Temples too to drive out the Merchants from within its walls.
“If you praise and worship Jesus with your mouth, and your life does not praise and worship him, there’s something wrong!” (Kieth Green)