On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves…Mark 11:15
In Jesus’ time, parts of the temple’s courts had been taken over by merchants. A trade or commerce of sorts had flourished under the guise of easing the burdens of those coming to the temple. The money changers exchanged foreign currency for the local monetary system; thus allowing the travelers to purchase the things they needed to perform their religious obligations. Even doves were offered for sale, as they were the sacrifice that the poor could make for their transgressions. Though doves were native to Israel and, despite being readily available, they too had been turned into a commodity for sale in the temple courts. It is here that we must stop and ask ourselves: If these items were truly needed in worshiping God, or in righting a relationship with Him, why did Jesus chase away those who were providing them?
Maybe, at the heart of the matter, worshiping God had become more about doing the least to gain the most. That appears to be what was happening at the temple. The people no longer stopped themselves from transgressing, nor did they even have to think strategically on how to bring their “gifts” or “sacrifices” to God as they traveled to the temple to profess their love and dedication to Him. They just came and bought what was so easily presented to them. In so doing, their sacrifices were no longer from their own hard work and effort, and not genuinely about repentance and restitution. What had always been meant to be a meaningful exchange with God had become just another commodity exchanged with someone else. Convenience, over obedience, had begun to win out, and God–who desires a close relationship with each of us–does not want that.
He is all about what is truly in each heart. Always.
“…and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.” Mark 11:16
Jesus went one step further when clearing out the buyers and the sellers. He also addressed those who had already bought their “gifts”. The mere fact that these transactions were already completed did not exclude them from His condemnation, nor did He allow them to continue on with no consequences. Despite their purchases, He brought a stop to their use by refusing to allow the buyers to carry them away. And that is something He wants us to consider too.
Just because everyone else is doing a certain thing, or just because you are able, does not make something valid or right. The same goes for each of us and for FBF. Please note that Jesus’ words were not just for the merchants and those transacting with them at that moment; it was for everyone in that area of the temple. Faith is not about trading away your sin through a purchase or gift. Taking care of others should not be about making us look good, nor receiving a tax receipt that benefits our year end return. That is not really about faith; it is about gain. As such, those type of transactions become more benefiting the giver, rather than being obedient to God’s call to give.
“And as He taught them, He said, ‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayers for the nations.’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Mark 11:17
Jesus was, and is, teaching something loudly and strongly through His actions and His words. In fact, it is so important that He does it twice: once in the beginning of His ministry and here again, at the end. While these people at the temple, on the surface, appeared to be worshiping God, Jesus is quite adamant that this system–their actions and trade–was wrong. Wisdom beckons us to apply this to our current lives in the here and now.
Merchandise is defined as “objects of commerce; wares; goods; commodities, whatever is usually bought or sold in trade.” Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language (ADEL), 1828. Commerce, itself, can exist anywhere you find “an interchange or mutual change of goods, wares, productions, or property of any kind, between nations or individuals, either by barter, or by purchase and sale; trade.” Id., commerce. It can involve the “mutual dealings in common life.” Id. Trade “comprehends every species of exchange or dealing, within the produce of the land, in manufactures, in bills or money. ” Id., trade. Thus, we can see that we engage in trade and commerce each and every day in many different arenas of our lives. The question then begs for us to better define what trading is a necessary part of life and what trading has wrongly infiltrated our relationship with God and others? What efforts of ours honor God and what ones take away from His glory?
The primary purpose of Families Building Faith is to grow and build faith–in ourselves, in our families, in others, in our communities, and in those who need encouragement and support. Outreach and service are the keys that move faith from mere belief to awe-inspiring moments of seeing God move in our world as we follow Him in His ways. It is where the rubber meets the road, as it is easy to study God’s Word and speak of it; serving, however, is faith lived out in action. And though we offer opportunities to help reach out and bless or encourage other, FBF does not exist to be another charity that helps the poor. We are not here to trade your goods for a tax receipt. Our goal is to build faith in others…and in you. While we appreciate the items that come in to bless another, we do not care to become a courtyard full of trading that minimizes God. That is not the purpose for which we were designed.
According to Noah Webster, part of the root of merchandise means to cheapen. Id. When exchanges are made where the giver intends to receive something back, they are cheapening the very act of giving. Because FBF hopes to be about building up faith rather than diminishing it, we have deliberately chosen not to become a 501c3 and to not be able to hand you a tax donation receipt. We are just simply a pathway for sharing blessings with another soul. Building faith, not charitable works, is our goal. The receipt of those efforts, we pray, is in the changed lives and growing faith of others for the betterment of this world and His Kingdom.
But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”Jonah 4:10-11