Jesus cleansing of the temple and chasing out sellers of animals and the money changers has caused some to state that today’s Christian churches should not have a coffee shop or a bookstore in their buildings. In other words, churches that have a coffee shop or book store on their campus are turning God’s House of Prayer into a market place!
It appears Jesus cleansed the temple at least twice, as recorded in the following verses:
But, can these bible passages be applied strictly to modern day Christian churches?
At least, that is my humble understanding. My reasons are as follows:
The temple was singular and very special. (Not like a modern church building.)
- It was built on the Temple Mount.
- The temple itself was holy.
- There was only one temple in existence at a time.
- It was huge, about the size of an NFL football stadium today.
- It was the nucleus of Judaism, its most sacred site.
- Special offerings and sacrifices as well as many other things took place in the temple, and only in the temple.
- The first temple had God’s presence living inside it.
- Only Jews and believers were allowed inside the temple. The temple was not an evangelizing site.
Today, we are the church. The buildings, storefronts, school auditoriums and other structures that Christians meet in are not holy. They are just buildings.
Most Christian churches today do not restrict visitors. In fact, the church building and services also function as an evangelizing arm of the church. Everyone is invited to come! Especially non-believers, so that they might be able to evangelize to the lost.
So comparing the one and only holy temple in Jerusalem to a modern Christian church building is comparing apples and figs. They are not the same. What Jesus did there was specific to the temple and cannot automatically be applied to today’s church buildings, used car lots or shopping centers!
What’s with all the money changers and cattle?
Jews came to the temple from all over the region. Sometimes from foreign countries. Jews who wanted to sacrifice an animal in the temple had to either bring the animals with them over many miles or as in many cases, just buy them at the temple. There were different animals, such as doves or sheep for specific sacrificial purposes.
Jews who wanted to pay their Temple Tax had to do so in Tyrian shekels, the official currency accepted. One could not pay their temple tax in foreign or Roman coins.
So, to facilitate this, merchants were allowed to set up “benches” or tables to sell various animals for sacrifice while others set up currency exchanges. This was traditional and actually necessary. The merchants and money changers were allowed to charge a fee for this convenience. It was called kolbon. This was not the problem. The problem was the exorbitant fees that these merchants and money changers charged! In addition, some were conducting bank business in the temple including offering loans!
The problem is John 2:16 when Jesus says, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
Some people have zeroed in on that translation, the words “house of trade”. They then insist modern Christian churches should not have a bookstore, a coffee shop or even sell CDs.
Of course, another huge difference is that in order for Jews to conduct their business at the temple, they had to have animals and/or the proper currency. So in many cases dealing with the merchants and money changers was a requirement.
Not so at a Christian church. No one is going to force you to buy a Mocha, a book or a CD in order to enter worship. Another huge difference!
There are three other sections in the bible that addresses this issue. And they have a different spin on things!
In Matthew 21:13 Jesus says, ““It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
Mark 11:15 “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.”
Luke 19:46: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
There are reports that the very profitable business activities got out of control. Imagine dozens of tables with dozens of animals, money changers and so forth. Plus, the sky high fees charged. These people, the thieves and robbers, had become the problem. These are the people Jesus chased out.
So, during Jesus’s time, there was only one very special temple and people had set up businesses that interrupted the religious process, charged outrageous fees, and everyone was forced to deal with them before worshiping. This was what Jesus was angry about.
A Christian church that has a coffee shop in the back of the lobby away from the worship area only for those who voluntarily want coffee is totally different than what was happening at the temple. I do not think you can take the story of Jesus kicking over the money tables there and apply it to something different in a totally different environment today.
My two cents. Your mileage may vary. Not applicable in Utah. No doves or money changers were injured in the writing of this article.