Worship with Wealth, Don’t Worship Wealth

Worship with Wealth, Don’t Worship Wealth

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13–17)

In one of the most jarring scenes in the life of Jesus, He shows up at the Temple and gets angry. Of the 60 or so times the Gospels mention Jesus’ emotions, compassion is the most common. Rarely does Jesus get angry, so when He does, we need to examine why.

In the temple courts, Jesus found men selling the unblemished cattle, sheep, and doves for the sacrifices that were required for their worship as mandated in the Old Testament (Leviticus 1:3–9, 4:2–21, 8:2, 22:21). They were obeying the letter of the law, but ignoring the spirit of the law.

The problem with this thriving business was three-fold. One, the worshipers were supposed to go through the difficult process of locating and transporting their own sacrifice rather than lazily showing up, dropping some money, and having work-free worship (Deuteronomy 12:5–7). Two, since the priests would only accept unblemished sacrifices, it is likely that the entire system had become corrupted and that the people inspecting the animals would only accept those sacrifices approved and purchased on temple grounds. Three, the businessmen running this racket were making excessive profits by driving up the actual cost of the animals, thereby ripping people off and oppressing the poor in the name of worshiping God.

In the temple courts, Jesus also found moneychangers who would exchange the varying currencies brought by the worshipers for a special temple currency that did not contain the face of another king but supposedly belonged to God the King alone. This currency was necessary to pay the Temple Tax, which was equal to roughly two day’s wages and required of every male over the age of 19. In the Old Testament Law, God laid out exactly how His ministry was supposed to be funded. The total cost of all that God commanded of His people (tithes, offerings, gleanings for poor, Temple Tax, sacrifices, feasts, festivals, etc.) is somewhere between 25%–27% of gross income. So, God’s plan required both generosity from the people and good stewardship from the leaders. But, in an effort to increase profit margins, changes were made without God’s approval. The moral of the story is that we need to consider if we are operating our finances according to God’s principles so that we can worship God with our wealth instead of worshiping our wealth.

How are you at being a good steward of the wealth God entrusts to you and at being a generous giver to God’s work in the world? If Jesus sat down to balance your budget and do your taxes with you, do you think He’d be angry like He was at the Temple?

Mark Driscoll
[email protected]

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