When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:15-17)
Relate: This is just my opinion, I wouldn’t go making a doctrine about it, but when it comes to money, I don’t think Jesus cared much about it. Maybe I should rephrase that. I don’t think Jesus cared all that much about what we did with our money. I do believe He was deeply concerned with what our money does to us. You could pretty fairly sum up all Jesus’ talking about money in five words: “Do not worry about it.” When it came time for the Temple tax Jesus said he was properly exempt from having to pay it, but exercising that right was more trouble than it was worth. So he sent Peter out to fish up a coin out of an aquatic wallet. When he was watching those who gave at the Temple he wasn’t looking at the amounts but rather the heart sacrifices. When they tried to trap Him Jesus said about Roman taxes, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is His.” The brilliant thing about this answer is its deliberate vagueness. One can say, “We should pay our taxes but give God our hearts.” Another could respond, “We owe nothing to Caesar. We owe everything to God.” They are both right.
When taking that approach in this verse, I don’t think Jesus was really concerned with the service fee money exchangers were charging for currency exchange. I do have to occasionally change Turkish Lira into US dollars, or vise versa. I do not do it all the time, but it is enough that I have learned the how and where it can happen with my lowest fee possible. Even still, there is always that fee. Maybe I should get all Biblical and start knocking over ATM’s or clearing out banks next time I have to pay it. A reasonable fee is fine and I have looked, but I have found nothing but speculation that the Temple currency exchangers were charging exorbitant fees. The only legitimate evidence I have seen comes straight from Jesus’ mouth and I would contest that in His eyes it wasn’t money that they were stealing.
React: In my opinion, backed by what I know of Jesus other statements, the Savior was more concerned with the “where” than the “what”. This currency exchange and sheep market, both necessary for proper obedience to the Passover celebration, was happening in the wrong place. Herod’s Temple, like Solomon’s before it, had an area designated where the foreigner could come and pray and hear about God. Ray Bentley calls it the court of Evangelism. He rightly points out that this is the only place where a good Jew could interact with a gentile without risk of becoming unclean. Instead of praying for and with the gentiles, they were preying on them. Even if not, they have turned the only place these for gentiles to pray into Wal Mart. They are robbing them of an opportunity to interact with God and that was a sin that gets God angry enough to kick over tables.
Am I doing or saying things in my interactions with my prechristian friends and neighbors that is robbing them of the opportunity to understand what God is truly about? Am I so loud and dogmatic about controversial side issues that they cannot hear of a God of love and reconciliation? Do they see us get so caught up in what is “taught in schools” that they believe that God is an opponent of science and truth? Am I so intent on being right that I no longer know how to be kind? Maybe we are failing in the exact same area as the Jews of Jesus time. Maybe in our greed or even our political connections, we are teaching the wrong lesson that God is a God of greed and exploitation rather than one who hears the cries of the poor and is close to the broken-hearted. Are we just as guilty as those Jews Jesus cleared out of the Temple? How does He respond to what we are saying and doing?
Help me to be ever more aware not just of what I am doing, but where I am doing it and how it will reflect on Your glory. If I am to be an ambassador for You, help me to represent well. Don’t let me get caught up in tangential issues that will only distract from what is truly important. Don’t let me get so caught up in building my own kingdom that I am doing a disservice to Yours. Please don’t ever let my words and actions become a means by which others are robbed of the opportunity to encounter You.