Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Ministry or Merchandizing?
Mat 21:13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Jews of Bible times worshiped corporately in two different places, the Temple and their local synagogues. The synagogue was more than a local worship center. On the Sabbath, that was the application, but it also served as a meeting, reception and social hall. They weren't availed with a high school gymnasium or other venues of assembly. The synagogue was the place to meet and greet and discuss. When a person was put out of the synagogue, they were excluded from Jewish social life.
On those special occasions, the Jewish holy days, they traveled to Jerusalem to their pure house of worship, the Temple.
The Temple was reserved for worship, sacrifice, praise and prayer. But it had been corrupted to the point where it was hard to recognize it as such.
Pilgrims from out of town were forced to exchange their money for Temple money, for a price, of course. They then used that Temple money to buy approved animals for sacrifice at inflated prices.
Worshipers both loved and resented going to the Temple for worship. They knew they were being ripped off by the money changers and dove sellers. Doves, by the way, were the sacrifices offered by the poorest people. They could not afford to offer bulls, goats and sheep. So it was the poor who were being most exploited by the temple thieves.
I sometimes wonder what people must think when they observe many of today's churches. I know that I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I drive down one particular street in our city. On that one street, we drive by more than a dozen multimillion dollar church buildings. I always wonder what they are doing for the poor and how much of their money is going toward missions. I have to assume that salaries and mortgages must chew up the lion's share of the congregant's offerings. What's left seems to go toward pastoral travel and retreats.
If Jesus were to step inside of many of today's churches, I wonder if He would recognize them as houses of prayer, or dens of thieves? Many ministry types are living jet-set, country club lifestyles. Plush auditoriums with all the latest high-tech media devices serve to enhance the entertainment value, while the pastors tickle the ears and tip toe through the tithers. And all for what? To make a name for the church and the pastor in the community and in the denomination.
It is high time we overthrow the tables of the money changers involved in their church merchandizing and quit exploiting God's people to make money. The church NEEDS to be about ministry, not money!