Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 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.”
The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read
‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself’?”
He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.
Jesus driving away the money changers is quite an exciting story, but Matthew makes it seem like a dull, every day occurrence. Keep in mind, these are centuries old traditions Jesus is turning over, traditions that helped keep the Priests rich and powerful. The Temple had become a corrupt place, but the people were used to it. People hate change more than corruption sometimes, I think. But the Priests… Keep in mind what a surprise Jesus was to the city of Jerusalem. Remember, many people in the city had never even heard of Jesus, never mind all the great things he had done. Who is this guy, they ask, who claims to have authority over our traditions, and who the children call the Son of David? Just who does He think He is? They are so blinded by their concern about overturned tables that they don’t even notice the great miracles He does in the Temple!
I think this story is especially relevant to churches today. Above all else, Jesus says the church needs to be a place of worship. When we let distractions in, like corruption, or profiteering, or even our own pride come to church with us, it gets in the way of our relationship with God.
A church in my hometown has a Starbucks-style coffee house in the front atrium. And while I’m sure the church puts that money to the best cause they know how, how is it any different than selling doves in the Temple? While it may be good for your church’s budget, it is really good for your church’s soul? Or does your white chocolate mocha distract you (and whoever is making it!) from building a stronger relationship with God? These are questions every church must ask themselves, and probably there is no right answer. But personally, I don’t need a fancy designer coffee to be distracted at church. New wall hangings are plenty enough to distract me for an hour! That’s why I prefer to attend more traditional, simple churches.