Take a few seconds and read this familiar passage found in John 2:13-17:
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
We have all heard this story. Chances are that if you grew up in the church you heard this story so many times you could recall the order in which this passage happens. Not really a hard thing to do, but if you heard it just once it might be. I digress.
The point of the above paragraph is this: I have heard this passage so many times that is is void of any meaning for me. This is one of the downsides to growing up in the Church. Passages like this one lose their flavor and become like everything else in the Bible: irrelevant.
I read it once. Then read it again. And again. And again. I did some light study on the passage and have come to my conclusion, which is what I would like to share with you.
A bit of Background
The occasion of this passage is “the Passover of the Jews” (v. 13). This was an event that required travel for many Jewish males over the age of twelve. They would travel to Jerusalem from their hometown to observe Passover. As this was the case for a majority of those attending Passover in Jerusalem, most would not hassle to bring an animal on the journey, an animal that they would need to sacrifice at the temple.
The entrepreneurs of that time in Jerusalem saw this as an event they could make extra money at. They would set up shop outside of the temple building proper (this area surrounded the temple and included the Court of the Gentiles) and sell animals fit for sacrafice. There would also be money changers available to change foreign currency into the required Jewish or Tyrian currency to pay the Temple tax. Both of these groups would take advantage of the influx of travelers and charge higher than necessary for their services.
“He drove them all out”
These practices did not sit well with Jesus, as we can see by reading the text. He sees what is happening on the temple grounds and drives “them all out of the temple” (v. 15). Literally, he drove out all animals and merchants. Emptied the temple of trade.
They were providing a needed service, sure. BUT they were doing it on the grounds of the temple. They were doing it even in the Court of the Gentiles, which is where non-Jewish believers could worship (I picture trying to worship at the New York Stock Exchange after the bell rings to make it relevant). Jesus knew that their hearts were not in the right place. They were not just offering services to assist in worship, they were making a profit. That was their purpose for being there, money. Only Jesus could call them out on this since He is God and knows their heart. They were not being sensitive to the worship taking place in His “Father’s house” (v. 16) so he drove them out.
“For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.”
How is Your Heart?
So doing this light study prompted me to ask myself this question: How is my heart? Specifically how is my heart when it comes to the worship of others while they are in His “Father’s house”?
As I am currently training for a life of ministry, I narrowed the question even further. “When I plan lessons, events, and communication in the Church, how is my heart?” Am I more concerned with myself and the time I have to give to each area of my ministry (which is currently “just” a volunteer position)? Or do I “count the cost” and view my time as a better time for my students? The more time I put into a lesson, the more a student will learn Scripture and how to apply it. The more time I put into planning an event the more it will be relevant and life changing (even if it is fun). The more time I put into communication with my students and their parents, the less time I will have to take away from ministry time to clarify.
Sure, I could wing a lesson, event, and email, but my heart would not be in any of it and my student’s worship would suffer.
To future and current ministry leaders: Are you more concerned about making a timely profit at the end of each day, or are you willing to cut into your time profit so that you are prepared to give your flock a better time of worship?