Not a terribly sanctified title, I suppose. If this is a problem…well…get over it.
In the ancient Jewish culture, the seriousness of sacrifices was like a life or death matter. This was what people did to seek forgiveness or gain or keep God’s approval. The thing was, there was not a Temple on every corner. People had to travel to Jerusalem in order to exercise sacrificial rites, often traveling long distances. Well, this is relative…we have cars, trains and planes, now…they traveled by foot or beast. Long, dusty travel.
Since they had to travel, carrying animals for sacrifice was inconvenient, if not out of the question. So, it was acceptable to buy animals when they got into town. Some may wonder why Jesus would barge in there and start turning over tables and whipping to drive out sellers. Here is a recount, from John 2…
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
Let me repeat…this was an acceptable practice. So, why would Jesus make such a production?
Profiting from people’s desperation.
They were charging many times more than the animals would sell for otherwise. If there were sellers elsewhere in town, prices were competitive. But, at the temple, last minute, the prices were outrageous.
I have heard this taught with the focus on these guys selling stuff at the Temple, as Jesus exclaimed how it was to be a “house of prayer”, as He was “cleansing” the Temple of these profiteers who were selling on God’s property…that is, stuff should not be sold at all on Temple grounds. This has also been the reason many churches won’t even have rummage sales to raise funds.
I don’t think this is the whole idea, though. I believe He was protecting the people from being used by men wanting to make some fast money off of peoples’ desperation. If we watch what Jesus was doing throughout His time, here, He often stood between the Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders) and the people. In this case, the people were being taken advantage of in the name of what they would give to the Lord.
It’s not unlike when a lumberyard sells 25 dollar plywood for one hundred dollars, or more, or when fuel prices triple, just before or after a hurricane.
As I see it, we still have this problem. Maybe you see it, too. People are being ripped of and taken advantage of in their quest to gain approval they don’t need, in the first place. It comes with words…the convincing, manipulative words of men who, in many cases, profit greatly from the desperation of people.
Again…this is as I see it. I am sharing my observations.
Now, if you tithe, I ask, don’t fire back at me for this. I am not asking you to agree with me…I am merely sharing what I have learned, in brief.
The popular Malachi passage was not addressed to the masses, but to the priests. This was speaking about produce, not money and it went into a storehouse for distribution, not the synagogue for support of it or the Temple. Also, the idea of the local church mystically becoming a storehouse is unfounded.
Another way are the prosperity teachings. This is a boldly indecent doctrine, raking in mass amounts of money with the lie of a promise that the giver will be “blessed”. Some congregations have an attendee base made up of many financially struggling people who gladly give with the idea that God will raise them from their humble circumstances. However, the only ones making a fortune are the ones teaching these counterfeit messages. The message appeals to greed, desperation and peoples’ desire to please God (by tithing/giving). A few even give their last bit of money for nothing, because they want to find favor with God.
Where the money goes
In the US, seventy percent of the average church budget goes for buildings and salaries. Not feeding people in need, not clothing for the poor, not missions, not housing…that stuff all squeezes out somewhere among the remaining 30 percent.
Meanwhile, pastors are made into professionals and paid executive salaries in many cases, and buildings are made to be inviting and comfortable if not luxurious. Somehow, this does not add up to what we can read about being witnesses, serving or being a pastor/elder…or even the “Great Commission”.
Manipulating the desperate ones.
It’s not always about money.
The invitation to go to Heaven or the threat of Hell after a long message appealing to peoples’ emotions, is a manipulative tactic to convince people to make an altar call. These altar calls often breed emotional responses and are the least effective way to lead people to the Lord, anyway. But, those who do this are happy as they watch the droves come down the aisles and proclaim the numbers of those who “came forward”.
There is also the threat of God’s disapproval over stuff deemed wrong as another manipulative tactic to keep members in line. I have heard people…pastors from the pulpit, too…say how God can be disappointed in someone. Wow…where did they get that idea? What part of the Bible did God ever say, “I am so disappointed in you.”?
It comes down to Law.
If it isn’t bad enough for people to lean on the Law, they make Law out of things that really have no scriptural support, whatsoever. What makes matters worse, the people who deliver that garbage are famous, sought after teachers, who are educated and have studied the Bible quite thoroughly. However, one would think that they never studied the ministry and words of Jesus, Himself.
Have we forgotten about Jesus?
It just seems that simple. Many of us claim, “The Bible plainly says…”, or, “It is clear in scripture…”, yet totally miss the simple and obvious accounts of Jesus’ ministry. Of all the claims and declarations we can make, we seem to overlook Who we claim to serve.
Let’s get back to Jesus. Who He is. What He said and how He treated people while He was among men. With that, we will see the old doctrines we have been following and pushing are not all they are cracked up to be.
For that matter, many of these old dogmas are just plain cracked.
Back to the Beginning.
It has always been about Jesus. From the beginning, through the middle, now and on to Eternity. Follow Him. When we do that, we will begin to see how to live, serve and love His people and Him, as He has first loved us.