“Is it not written, ‘My house will be called the house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17)Here is what was taking place that caused Jesus to state this according to the Gospels of Jesus:
Then they arrived in Jerusalem and Jesus went into the Temple. He began casting out the shoppers and merchants in the Temple. He overthrew the tables of the bankers and the chairs of those who sold doves. And he would not allow anyone carrying any merchandise through the temple." (Mark 11:15-16)
Why was Jesus so upset about doing business on Temple grounds?
This means this was no peaceful demonstration. Jesus was angry, and he was physically stopping the marketplace nearly single-handedly. He was physically turning over tables and chairs. And he was physically blocking people from carrying their selling goods through the Temple.
Why is this? Why did Jesus get so upset? Wasn't Jesus a peace-loving passivist? What about turning the other cheek? Wasn't Jesus an adherent of non-violence?
According to the description, it does not appear that anyone was hurt, though some might have been a little scuffed up. Jesus was not attacking people.
He wanted the merchants off the Temple grounds. He wanted the business to stop. Why?
Because the Temple is a place where the Supreme Being is to be worshiped. And Jesus loves the Supreme Being.
This was expressed in the Isaiah verse quoted by Jesus. Here is the verse in context:
And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to Him, to love the Name of the LORD, and to be His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to My covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations." (Isaiah 56:6-7)The key phrases in this passage include "who bind themselves to the LORD to minister Him," and "to love the Name of the LORD." Jesus is referring to love. Loving God, serving God and worshiping God. Jesus is referring to a relationship of love.
How to insult a relationship
Let's use an example. Let's say that you are wearing your wedding ring and someone comes up and offers you $100 for your wedding ring, right off your hand. How will you respond?
If you love your spouse you will feel insulted, right? Why? It's just a ring, isn't it?
No. It is a symbol of your love for your spouse. It represents your relationship with your spouse. To turn that relationship into a commercial opportunity - to sell your ring right off your hand for any price - would feel insulting to your relationship.
And how would a spouse feel when they found out their wife or husband had just sold their wedding ring?
The spouse would be very upset. They would be upset because their spouse thought so little of their relationship that they would cheapen their relationship by selling their ring to the first person who comes around waving some money.
This analogy gives us a glimpse of the situation for Jesus. The love between spouses pales in comparison to the love that Jesus feels for the Supreme Being. God is his Best Friend and Beloved. He enjoys an intimate loving relationship with God. And he lives to please God. This is why Jesus said:
"By myself I can do nothing; As I hear, I make choices, and my choices are just because I do not seek to please myself but to please Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
The Temple was sacred because of Jesus' love for God
Due to Jesus' love for God, the Temple is sacred to him. It is more than just a symbol of their love. The Temple is where his Beloved is worshiped.
But those who were selling on the Temple grounds didn't care about the Supreme Being. They obviously had no love for God. They were not considering the Temple grounds as being sacred. All they figured is that the Temple was a popular place, so they wanted to use that popular place to hawk their goods.
Yes, they certainly could have set up their tables and wares in the streets outside of the Temple. They could have respected the Temple grounds. But they didn't, because they didn't consider God's place as sacred. They simply wanted to use the Temple for their own purposes.
What about today's church bazaars and rummage sales?
Today this very thing is occurring among the many sectarian churches supposedly built to worship God. These supposed temples are being used by their members to host bazaars, swap meets, yard sales, cake sales and many other money-making events.
These are organized or permitted by teachers and institutions who claim to follow Jesus. How could they claim to follow Jesus while they are doing the exact thing that Jesus got so upset about? The only recorded event in the Bible that Jesus becomes physically aggressive should indicate just how important this issue is to Jesus. Yet they completely ignore this as they hold their swap meets, yard sales and cake sales on their church grounds.
Many churches will actually lease out their grounds to organizations that do some form of business on the site. The leasing of the grounds is equivalent to selling off one's worship of God to the highest bidder.
But they say the proceeds help the church
Oh, but they will say the proceeds from the sale goes back to the church. Whose pockets does it end up in? Mostly, the professional priests or reverends - and the other money-making professionals that supposedly provide services at the church.
If they are providing service to God, then why are they being paid? Why are they being compensated?
Because they are not serving the Supreme Being. They are being compensated for their services. By receiving compensation, they have waived their service to God.
If a church or any institution is run in such a way where the teachers are employed and given paychecks, then their teaching services is not a service to God. It is a business venture. It is a money-making venture for them. A profit-center for the teachers and managers of the institution.
An act of love does not seek compensation
Any service rewarded with money cannot be a service of love. A service of love is done without any expectation of reward. And accepting the reward is to cancel the loving service.
Let's use an example. Let's say that you bring a gift to your mother for mother's day, and your mother goes into her purse to get some money to pay you for the gift. Do you accept the money?
Certainly not. You would likely be offended just by the notion that your mother thought you got the gift so you could get compensated. If you love your mother, you will naturally turn her offer to pay you down.
Furthermore, anyone who would accept the money in this situation would truly have not given the gift out of love. If there was any expectation of reward, the gift is not an expression of love. Rather, it is an expression of greed: A business venture.
It is the same when it comes to giving someone the gift of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus freely gave these teachings, and he asked his students to also freely give them out. Why? Because they come from love. God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Jesus did not collect money during his teachings. He didn't extract a salary from his followers. He freely gave his knowledge without any expectation of return.
Yes, his followers sometimes provided support in the form of food to eat, and sometimes, places to sleep. But this was completely voluntary. And Jesus didn't pack any of these donations away. He didn't buy a nice house or a farm off the backs of his followers' donations. To the contrary, he often slept outside on the ground and subsisted on whatever food became available.
This is why, when Jesus sent his students off to preach, he forbade them to carry a purse or money bag:
"Take with you no money belt, nor a bag or shoes, and greet no one on the way." (Luke 10:4)Later, long after they had returned, he asked them:
“When I sent you out without a money belt or a bag or sandals, you didn’t lack anything, did you?” “Nothing,” they answered. (Luke 22:35)Why did Jesus forbid them from taking a purse or bag? Because he didn't want them collecting and keeping donations, and thereby becoming professional teachers like the Pharisees. It was okay for them to stay where they were invited to stay. But he didn't want them profiting from passing on his teachings.
In the same way, if church members were to provide a place to stay and food for the reverend or priest that would be one thing. But reverends and priests are being paid sometimes-significant salaries, with which they can buy big houses and cars, or farms or other investments. Such a strategy of wealth-building effectively turns their service into a money-making venture.
Reflecting this money-making objective, such reverends and priests are willing to turn their entire church institution into a business, and in the case of some of these institutions, billions of dollars are accumulated in their coffers - virtually abandoning the teachings of Jesus.