The industry of faith…
As Jesus walked into the temple courts everyone was waiting to see what he was going to do. For far too long there was something under the surface bubbling up. People were realizing that something wasn’t right with all that was happening there.
For generations, people had set up shop right outside the temple and turned faith into an industry. With the support of the religious leaders, money changes were making money by exchanging currency for temple money. In the end, the whole system benefited the religious elites and hurt the masses.
To make matters worse, they leveraged their authority as temple leaders to shame normal people into continuing to prop up the whole faith industry. Let me say that another way, these religious leaders were leveraging God to oppress the poor.
Jesus had enough.
On this day, Jesus walked into the temple courts and did something that seemed so out of character for him. One by one, Jesus flipped over the tables. He shouted out, “Is it not written; ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:12
This seems to be out of character for Jesus. I mean, he had encountered a lot of things that should have enraged him…and they didn’t. He wasn’t furious at the woman who had committed adultery, he wasn’t angry with the woman at the well, he didn’t seem enraged when John was arrested, he wasn’t even angry when the soldiers arrested him in the garden. But, here we see a new side of Jesus. What was it?
I think Jesus had enough of people leveraging God to hurt people. So, he called a spade a spade. Jesus points to where these leaders’ hearts really were. You see, this faith industry was no longer about God and faith but instead, it was about making a quick buck….it was about keeping the system alive.
The religious leaders heard all this and they panicked. Take a look at what Mark says, “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him…” Mark 11:18
They faced a threat to their man-made systems and their response was seeking a way to kill him. Don’t gloss over that.
Church leaders, what if we’ve just created another version of the money changer system? I’m not talking specifically about the money element. Although that’s probably a good conversation to have; I think that might be a symptom of a bigger problem though. Think deeper than the money thing. Think about the religious leader’s hearts. A part of their hearts morphed into this desire to keep the man-made system going no matter the cost -even if that meant hurting people.
They leveraged God to hurt people, so that they could keep their system of faith alive.
Do we have that in us? Man, I hope not.
Many people are leaving the system of church today. Sometimes I hear pastors express frustration at that. I get it, it’s a threat to our way of life. But what if these people are leaving the system of church for the right reasons? What if they are walking away from the things church leaders should be walking away from too?
Jesus followers, this is why we have to be so adamant about the new covenant. Jesus offers us a whole new way of doing things, not another man-made version to do religion.
So many times we create roadblocks to seeing what the gospel really is. We leverage things like “spiritual authority” to attach standards to becoming a Christ-follower that are just plain wrong…and the sad part is these standards end up just serving/feeding the man-made system of religion and cast shame on the people in the pews. While building up the system of church it hurts people.
When we do that, we water down the gospel and we may even be harming the people we want to help. Here’s what I mean, show me an abused church member and I’ll show you a church inappropriately leveraging authority over its members.
It’s no different than what the money changers were doing. They had been given authority by spiritual leaders to steal from the general population.
Jesus followers, we’ve got to find those parts of our organizations that are like the money changes and flip some tables. We’ve got to find the parts of our organizations that have kicked God out of the driver seat and made the institution of the church, our traditions, or our rituals LORD and realign things.
People are more important than your way of church, your political beliefs, your comforts, staff structure, church building, number of songs, type of music, small group design, organizational documents, traditional easter program, the offering, the sermon, all of it.
Our faith isn’t an industry.
Let’s figure out how to stop leveraging God to hurt people and figure out how to partner with God to love people.