Monday, September 21, 2009

Commerce & Religion

bible bar

And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers." And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

Mark 11:17-18

One clear sign of a degenerative religion is commercial activity in its practice. Jesus would not let the profiteering continue in the temple when He saw it. He took swift and decisive and controversial action. He drove out those who were making obscene profits from exchanging foreign funds at the temple. He chased away those who were taking advantage of the poor through the forced sale of sacrificial animals.

The practices that made Jesus so indignant were twofold: 1) The money changers charged way too high an exchange price for those coming in from foreign places to worship during the Passover. The temple tax was to be paid in Jewish currency, and the money changers made healthy, even outrageous profits, from the practice. 2) Those selling sacrificial animals also took advantage of those making a long journey to the temple. They would raise the price of a sacrificial animal to extremes. They also would insist that any animal brought for sacrifice would have to be traded (along with a chunk of cash) for a more acceptable animal. They would then more than likely sell the “trade-in” to the next unsuspecting customer. It was quite a racket.

Jesus had the authority to do this because this was after all His Father’s house! And no one could do anything about it at the moment. The chief priests and scribes saw that the crowd adored what Jesus had done. They had been oppressed by this evil practice for quite some time. So the leaders just decided to bide their time. The crowds were astonished at His teaching (again) because this time He physically demonstrated His authority over the very practices done in the temple courts.

I wonder what Jesus would think of our modern evangelical culture. I am all for resources and reading. I suppose there is a place for being able to purchase them at a reasonable price. I know that I could not take a royalty on a Christian resource in good conscience. I am not so sure that retailing the gospel for sheer profit is such a good idea, either. We can get bumper stickers, necklaces, candy bars, sweat shirts, rap CD’s, and nowadays, even Christian cologne in the name of the Man who cleansed the temple of its salesmen. Could something be not quite right?

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