Then Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” People who were blind and lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and legal experts saw the amazing things he was doing and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were angry. They said to Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” he answered. “Haven’t you ever read, From the mouths of babies and infants you’ve arranged praise for yourself? Then he left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there (Matthew 21:12-17, Common English Bible).
One day, early in the morning, while serving a former church, the church secretary called me. Vandals and/or thieves had broken into the building over night. It appeared that there was more vandalism damage than things that were missing. Still, it was rather unsettling.
When I arrived at the office and first walked into my study, the first thing I noticed was, the guitar I kept in the corner was gone. The second thing I noticed was, my computer monitor had been overturned.
An interior office door had been kicked in but nothing appeared to be missing. When we walked to the sanctuary, we found the lead guitar player’s guitar sitting on a few steps. They left the guitar but stole the case. We walked to the parlor and found a television was stolen. Down in the preschool at the other end of the building, most of the damage was vandalism. It was in the nature of shaving cream the vandals found in a supply closet that was sprayed all over the office and hallways.
Without question, things could have been worse. No one was hurt. Not too much damage was done and not too much was stolen. My guitar nor the guitar player’s case were ever recovered.
For a short period of time, our church was a haven, we didn’t know it and would never have allowed it had we known, but it was a haven for thieves and vandals. Thankfully they were long gone before the arrival of anyone on the staff.
At the same time as this happened, our congregation was in the middle of a prayer vigil. People were coming to the church during the day and evening to pray and still others would pray at night. It was also close to Easter time. When I read this passage back then, the irony of a hideout for thieves and a house for prayer all in the same building.
While I know Jesus meant that the priests and the Pharisees were cheating the people or allowing the people to be cheated. Jesus wanted those same people to be able to come to the temple to pray. Because we are all sinners, even if we remove the money changers from the equation, there were still thieves and other sinners occupying the temple.
We are no different today. Our churches are filled with paradox as we have thieves and sinners coming to our worship centers to pray. But friends, I don’t think that would bother Jesus as much as it bothers some of us. Jesus’ complaint wasn’t against your average sinner who was working, praying and trying to find change. Jesus complained about those who would take advantage of a situation. If we are on our knees, it is difficult to take advantage of a brother or sister.
Does your prayer focus ever target the changes that need to be made in you? Which will your church be, a hideout for thieves or a place of recovery and prayer for sinners? The answer is up to us.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved