Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Money Changers and Salesmen in our Chruches

How many of us, self righteous Christians nod in agreement at Jesus' severe and unexpected reaction to the money changers at the temple as told in the story of Matthew in chapter 21.  Of course we nod in agreement that Jesus was justifed when he overturned the tables of the money changers and salesmen that were parked right in front of the holy temple.  As the accounts states- "Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling.... He knocked over the tables of the money changers... He said to them, 'The scriptures declare My Temple will be called a house of prayer but you have turned it into a den of thieves'". (New Living Translation NLT).

From the point of view of the money changers, they were simply doing a service.  Perhaps they justifed their presence by stating that they were simply raising money for the temple - for a worthy cause- through the sales of pidgeons, and doves and other animals.  Maybe they justified their presense by stating they were fundraising and the money raised were simply donations for the temple- perhaps for the widow and orpahn's fund, benevolence fund or the religious education or missionary fund. And the goods they were selling were "wholesome" enough.  They were selling items that could be used for an important and accepted religious ritual.  In fact, by selling their goods, they could argue that they were encouraging religious worship.   They were there for a "reason"; a reason cloaked and protected under the umbrella of religion.  Nevertheless the reason didn't matter to Jesus.  Clearly raising money- regardless of the purpose, was innapropriate in the House of the Lord.  Yet, why is this accepted at our modern day Churches today?  -Which are no less the house of the Lord than the temples were in ancient times.  Fundraising and asking for or raising money are common place in just about all churches today.  While it is true that Chruches need financial resources to run and maintain programs, clearly the house of God during worship service- or even before worship service- is clearly not the right place according to scripture- no matter what the justification or reason.  In fact, outside the house of the Lord was still deemed innapropriate by Jesus.  And if this was the case back then, what would Jesus think about this money exchanging within the walls of the chuch itself?  Have modern chrucches taken the liberty to change the rules or bend the rules?

Therefore we must consider and ask ourselves is it appopriate to solicit donations, no matter how well meaning- whether for the missionary fund, pro-life fund, religious education or benevolence.  Is it appropriate to ask for these donations in the "announcements" made before the start of the worship service? Is it appropriate to interrupt service with a pius sounding prayer and music and pass around a donation basket during service- to get donations? Clearly, social pressure and public recognition will be the motive for some to give.  Yes, it is true this will result in more money donations- to the benefit of the church.  But is this method truly the right way? Or is it more appropriate to station a locked box near the entrance, perhaps in the lobby or near the doors to the sanctuary or worship room- so that donators can annonymously and privately put in their donation- which God sees in secret yet rewards in heaven. 

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