He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:16).
A WhatsApp message quoting Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, Presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the Action Chapel International (ACI) ministry, headquartered in Accra, Ghana, had me thinking. Archbishop Williams said that after a period of prayer, God had revealed to him that: “The gathering you call a church is no longer a church before my eyes but a place of tussle for power, position, fame, division, superiority, supremacy, and authority…The hearts of the people are divided against each other and brothers are seeking the downfall of brothers for the sake of position and authority…I am very bitter with the Church.”
This revelation had me thinking about what the Bible calls The Cleaning of the Temple. According to St. John, at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. The Passover recalls and celebrates God’s liberation of the Hebrews from the shackles of domination, exploitation, and oppression in Egypt. The annual pilgrimage saw Jews from all over the world going to Jerusalem to worship and meet their religious obligations such as paying Temple tax and sacrificing animals and birds.
The necessary and convenient business of selling suitable animals and birds and operating a cambio to exchange foreign coinage for Temple coinage had been developed and promoted by the religious and temple authorities. Unfortunately, this service had descended into shady commercial activities which were oppressive, exploitative, and a source of unjust enrichment for the traders, money changers, and the temple authorities who controlled the business.
On arrival, Jesus was disturbed and disgusted at the unrighteous use of the Temple. Enraged, he attacked the dishonesty of the traders and objected to the trade. John said: “Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables” (John 2:15) and said, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:16).
The Lord’s words, through Archbishop Williams, might not apply to us, but there are unrighteous practices with which he is not pleased. Do our churches need divine cleansing?
Jesus is deeply disturbed and displeased about sanctuaries which are shabby, or where extravagance and opulence is obvious; with a Church that has millions in the bank when the churched or unchurched are destitute; when shepherds exploit and squeeze the last cent out of the sheep to acquire unnecessary personal assets; when the Church is a business venture to be inherited by descendants; when offices and positions are bought and negotiated for; when the sheep refuse to treat shepherds with love and respect, and when leaders sanction oppressive and exploitative practices for personal or institutional enrichment.
Think about the church to which you belong. Is there unrighteousness in how the resources or opportunities we use to serve God are obtained and utilized? Do we love things more than people?
Thought: God is displeased when we choose a wrong way to do the right thing.
Prayer: Lord, in all our dealings, help us to seek to be righteous and just, for Christ’s sake. Amen.