Thursday, December 28, 2017

No Merch in Church!

13 And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 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' money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

–John 2:13-16

This isn’t one of those stories in the Bible where it just says the thing that someone did displeased the Lord, and we are left to figure out why he didn’t like it. He gave them a clear command here not to make his father’s house a house of merchandise.

Jesus was obviously very angry, but we know that it was a righteous indignation because he is without sin. He didn’t blow his top. He sat outside the temple—possibly for hours-- making a whip, showing that his actions were carefully thought out.

The argument in favor of the church bookstore that I always heard growing up was that we should only sell things that are spiritual. Were they selling spiritual things in verse 16? If you study the Old Testament, people who were traveling to the temple from very far away were told to buy sheep and doves to sacrifice to the Lord. Since God told them to buy these animals in the first place, the only possible explanation for why Jesus was angry was that they were selling them in the wrong place. Notice he didn’t tell them to stop selling the animals; he told them, “Take these things hence.” (hence = from here)

Another argument you might hear is that they weren’t supposed to be making a profit on the animals. That doesn’t make sense either because if you raise livestock for a living, you need to make money just like anyone else. The reason they were making God’s house a “den of thieves” as he says in Matthew 21 is that they were making money unlawfully by selling their merchandise in the wrong place. Jesus didn’t tell them to lower their prices or use the money to send kids to camp. He told them not to do it in God’s house and drove them out with a whip.

This was the angriest you will ever see Jesus during his earthly ministry, and if you study your Bible, you will see that he actually did this on two separate occasions. That’s why our church will never sell you a cup of coffee, a book, or a DVD for any reason. Everything on the shelf is free; we don’t even have a donation box back there. Show up and load up on material, and the only thing I might question you on is, “Do you want paper or plastic?”

Here is a sermon to go with this article.

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