“My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers” is a statement of Jesus found in Luke 19:46. He made this statement in response to those who were selling animals and changing money in the Temple.
In my lifetime, the church has done a pretty good job of preventing the sale of animals and banking transactions from taking place on church grounds. On the surface, we have followed the teaching of Jesus in this regard.
As I reflect on this statement, I have an increasing level of discomfort about how well we’ve done in following the principle behind the statement.
What are robbers? There are two aspects of a robber that come to mind. The first is that he is not concerned about what is right and what is wrong. The robber is willing to take what is not his.
The second is that he is acting on his own behalf and not concerned about the welfare of others. The robber satisfies his own needs at the expense of another.
We don’t sell animals and we don’t cheat people by making them exchange their money. That’s good, but there are other ways we can emulate the people condemned by Jesus. We can keep the letter of the law while violating the principle behind it.
The principle is that we are to be about our Father’s business which is that of reconciling a hurting world with the loving Father. We are to be about His business and not our own. But, too often on a Sunday morning, our involvement is all about what is good for us and not what is pleasing to God and beneficial to others. If we do not come to the church meeting with the right motivation, we can then become like the robber.
We become like the robbers when we:
- Are More concerned about attendance than spiritual growth
- Are more concerned about appearing holy than being holy
- Are manipulating people into giving money rather than depending upon God
- Are more concerned about the buildings and the campus than the people, the true church
- Are more concerned about being served than serving
- Are more concerned about our reputation than God’s
- Misrepresent God to the people who need him most, causing them to walk away feeling condemned
So, instead of smugly reading this passage and patting ourselves on the back for not allowing commerce to take place on church grounds on Sunday, let’s look at the real business that we are to be about.
The ancient Israelites missed the point of Temple worship and if we are honest, we sometimes struggle to stay on track. We live in a culture that encourages us to live for self first.
We need to allow God to show us where this selfishness has corrupted our worship and practice. The proper response then is to repent and allow God to bring change.
Because of wrong belief and practice, we’ve abandoned a lot of spiritual territory to the Enemy. It’s time to begin the battle to take it back . . . before it’s too late.