*There is only one biblical account of Jesus using physical force, and it must have been out of deep concern for him to do so.
It was when he entered the temple at Jerusalem for the first time where he overturned the money-changers’ tables, and drove out those who sold merchandise. To those who sold doves he specifically told them, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” [John 2:16, NIV] A clue to the significance of his statement may be found in the previous chapter in John the Baptist’s testimony of Jesus: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” [John 1: 32-34, NIV]
During those days it was customary for thousands of people to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Because of the long distances traveled on camel, donkey, or foot – to lighten the load – many would travel without a sacrifice. They relied on the merchants that sold sacrifices like pigeons, sheep, and other livestock once they arrived. Also, it was necessary for them to exchange their foreign money for local currency for which they were charged interest.
Is merchandising in some churches causing apostasy? Are people falling away from Christianity because what they mistakenly trusted in was tossed and driven, and their hopes were overturned? Are prosperity churches teaching false doctrine for material gain? Have they perverted God’s word that says, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” [Matt. 6:33, NIV] It seems the only ones prospering are those preachers whose celebrity lifestyles include multiple homes, luxury cars, airplanes, and other excessive amenities.
The danger of placing a man on a pedestal and putting all your trust in him, is that when there is a downfall – and we’ve witnessed many – the people who placed their hope and trust in the man and not in the God who created them become disillusioned and may turn altogether against Christianity based upon their experience. The fallout is far-reaching because the disillusioned will then share their testimony with others so that exponentially, there may be hundreds or thousands who will not come to Christ as a result.
It is so important that we take the time to read and search the scriptures for ourselves. We have to sacrifice and make time for God, so that we know for ourselves what his plan is for our lives. If we don’t bring our sacrifice with us, if we’re not equipped with knowledge and understanding, we could be sold anything like those who were at the mercy of the temple merchants. A songwriter once wrote, “If Jesus took the time to bleed, we should take the time to read.” Some pollsters reveal that because atheists and agnostics are more vocal and emboldened today, many more young people are influenced and are turning away from God because they don’t understand, for instance, why churches are speaking out against issues like the homosexual lifestyle of which they are more accepting than past generations. They believe the churches have got it wrong, so they venture no further to learn God’s word in context, and to know that he loves the world, but hates the behavior of those who shake a fist at his commands, and continue going their own way as if they created themselves – “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” [1 Cor. 6:9-11]
God our creator knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants us to come out of those things that hold us back and deny us his favor. In these last (we see the signs) and difficult days, the spirit of apostasy is alive and well. This is certainly not the time to turn away from God, but rather to draw nearer to him. Salvation is free. Don’t let the false teachers – wolves in sheep’s clothing – sell you a bill of goods. Take time to read the fine print. Listen to the Spirit of God’s word so that you can escape the trap that will prevent you from being all you can be as God intended.
Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of ‘Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand’ www.larrybuford.com firstname.lastname@example.org