I have a bad habit of assuming certain Bible verses don’t apply to me.
Take the story we read this week, for instance, about the day Jesus cleared the Temple of the merchants and money changers. First of all, the scene itself is difficult to picture. Jesus, whom I typically think of as even-tempered and mild, fashions a whip – a whip! – out of rope and uses it to chase the transgressors out of the building. He scatters the coins onto the floor and then, consumed with anger and disgust, he turns over the tables, one after the other. This is a side of Jesus we haven’t seen before and won’t see again in all of Scripture. This is a side of Jesus I don’t want to mess with.
So what’s my reaction to these verses? “Whew!” I say to myself. “Glad I’m not as bad as the money changers! Glad I’m not the one abusing God’s Temple.”
Every time I’ve read this passage in the last three years, this has been my response. I assume because I’m not selling goats in the church lobby that I’m okay, I’m good – these verses don’t apply to me. But this week when I read this story, I discovered something I’ve never seen before in the verses that immediately follow the scene in the temple:
“Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.” (John 2:23-24)
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that these two verses immediately follow the scene in the Temple.
Suddenly this story wasn’t only about the merchants and the money changers, it was about all of humankind. Suddenly I knew this story was about me.
The truth is, my inclination, my human nature, is to put material concerns – wealth, status, achievement, recognition – ahead of God. I do it time and time again. When I covet someone else’s house, I put money before God. When I yearn for someone else’s position, I put status before God. When I desire more blog readers and a bigger platform, I put achievement and recognition before God. I struggle with my priorities. I struggle to put God first.
Jesus was angry with the merchants and money changers because they dishonored his Father’s house. But on a deeper level, he was angry with them because their motives, actions and priorities dishonored God himself. They put worldly concerns – wealth, status and recognition – ahead of God, and that, I know, is something I’m guilty of, too.
Questions for Reflection:
What do you put ahead of God? Can you think of how you might better arrange your priorities so that God comes first?
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