Devotional Reading: Matthew 21: 12-17. Morning Psalm 84; Evening Psalm 42
Text: He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” (v. 13)
In the first church that I served there was quite a debate over whether or not they should raffle off a quilt during the annual bazaar. To have a raffle would require a state gambling license and old time United Presbyterians found this very hard to swallow. Yet, just about everyone bought a lottery ticket promising to tithe to the church their winnings. In the course of the debate Jesus’ words from Matthew 21 were quoted.
While I have problems with congregations supporting their ministry budget through community-supported fundraisers, if we think that that is what Jesus was talking about, we are mistaken. He was talking about a corrupt sacrificial system.
Sacrifice lay at the heart of the their faith practice. The problem with the Temple system was that worshipers were being “gouged” or “taken advantage of.” The religious leaders were “in it” for the wrong reason. Jesus’ criticism was not unlike that of the beloved story of the widow’s mite. In both the religious leaders were acting like modern day television religious charlatans who want your financial support but will neither visit you in the hospital nor officiate at your funeral.
Religious disciplines are supposed to draw us closer to God. Christian communities are called to give themselves away for they are the Body of Christ in this world. When we forget that this is our purpose, our “why”, then Jesus’ words judge us.
Lord, make me a servant of your Kingdom and an active member of your Body here on earth. Show me how to live a noble life, one that is worthy of example. Do not let me not take advantage of another or look disparagingly upon someone else. Remove my fear of the foreign and the new. Create a right spirit within me. Amen.