Profaning divine ordinances
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13).
This account is not a mere historical happening, simple recorded for interest, with which we have nothing to do. Indeed, considering our ways, it is most relevant to all those who call upon the name of the Lord.
Jesus came to earth in humiliation as the incarnate Son of God. But on this occasion, as on several others, He forcefully manifested divine hatred against sin, especially sin that profanes God's name and sullies His holiness. By a mighty, irresistible display of power He made the Temple symbolically clean. With the great clutter of animals, tables, chairs, money, and frightened people, it was far from tidy; but it was for a brief time cleansed of overt moral defilement.
The Jerusalem temple, as Jesus found it, was sold out to spiritual whoredom (cf. Isaiah 1:21-23). The ecclesiastical elite was bribing God's lovers by giving them their needs for worship ready-made: oxen, sheep, lambs, turtledoves. They were making money out of God's worship! But it was "convenient" for everybody concerned. Not so! God did not want it; and Christ's action may be crudely described as crude, but it was effective, and showed that God deserved better than that.
We today should beware lest we be enmeshed in doing the same thing. We should check ourselves by asking such questions:
1. Has materialism infiltrated in the church? If we are prompt to answer, No, probably it has.
2. What are our priorities in church ministry? Is maintaining the building more important and urgent than being fellow-labourers to see God's building - the ingathering of the elect - being built?
3. Are we discriminating against the poor, the socially below us, in the church?
4. Where is our treasure? (cf. Matthew 6:19-21).
5. Is our eye whole in giving God due worship, or are we bent on aggrandizing our denomination?
6. Have we thought out what the perils of wealth are? Are we in such peril?
7. Are we using our most holy faith to enrich ourselves? To advance ourselves? To enhance ourselves with dignity?
8. Could it be that we too are worshipping the golden cow, as John White calls it?
9. Are pastors become salesmen? Are they proclaiming Christ as Lord of all or are they huckstering Him the Arminian way?
10. From where do we get our values? From society or from above?
11. Are we trusting the Holy Spirit for conversions, or are we depending on the impression left by the Superstar who "made a decision for Christ"?
12. God does not condemn the possession of riches. But are we clinging to them, coveting them and having our activity centered around them? Are we devoutly using the "Temple" for such ends?
13. What determined your acceptance of this pastorate or that? What it the pay primarily?
14. Has religion become business for us, and is it forcing us to compete?
15. What methods do we seek in attempting to expand and grow? Are they strictly biblical? Or are they taken from the latest edition of the commerce handbook?
It was in part out of Luther's opposition to indulgences, the supposed buying of God's grace for money, that the Protestant Reformation was ignited. Believers today should cry out as Luther did for Christ to cleanse the church of its many modern defilements, including making merchandise of the gospel.
Judgment must still begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).