Church Like a Drug
Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. John 2:15
Once, long ago and far away, I met a businessman who went to church, it seemed to me, just to network. I met him in church, and it was through a church function, that he tried to sell me on his business. I think he truly believed in God, but it was obvious that church was a tool he used to advance himself financially. Money was his addiction and in church he found an acceptable way to feed it.
As distasteful as his behavior was, I’ve got to admit that I’ve done something similar. In the throes of my own drug addiction, I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror and I worried a tremendous amount about what others saw. If I could keep up a facade of the nice Christian who went to church every Sunday, then I felt a little better about myself. I used church, like I used the drug, to make myself feel better. When life fell apart in the consequences of my addiction, I even attempted to use my church connections (unsuccessfully) to bail me out.
It’s this perverse use of God’s house for selfish gain that angered Jesus so much in today’s passage. In the story, the temple courtyard had become a stockyard, where businessmen sold their animals. These profiteers saw a market – people needed animals for sacrifice – and an opportunity to make money. I’m sure they told themselves they were promoting God’s will by providing the animals, but really, they were just using God’s house for personal profit.
This is about as far away as the purpose of church – or the temple – as one could get. It’s unfortunately our nature though, to attempt to bend everything to serve our purpose. Church is about turning away from our path to follow God’s. Our nature however, is to twist this around, attempting to make the church – and God – serve us.
If Jesus response is any indication, God is unimpressed by our attempted perversion of his house. As Jesus violently removed the greed from his temple, so too, must we deal with this behavior in our own lives. Church is about abandoning ourselves to follow and serve God. Not the other way around.