Bible Reading Blog — March 3, 2016

3 Mar

Today’s Readings — 1 Samuel 8-10 & Mark 11:15-19

I have heard the story of Jesus cleansing the temple used as a reason to prohibit churches from having a bookstore to prohibiting youth group fundraisers. I think this is a misguided approach for a couple of reasons. First, there is the issue of motives. While it is true that fundraising and selling in church can be a sign of greed or materialism on the part of those who sell, it is equally true that the motives may be pure and right. This is the issue. Jesus criticized those selling in the temple of being thieves. There is a motivation there that may not be in all who are selling something within the church.

The other reason we don’t draw a straight line between Jesus cleansing the temple and selling things in church is perhaps even more significant . . . we should not draw an equivalence between the temple and the church building. The church building is not the house of God in the same way the temple was the house of God. Because of Jesus’ coming, we live in the New Covenant. One of the changes that arises in the New Covenant is that worship is no longer connected with a specific place, the temple in Jerusalem. Worship is now a matter of spirit and truth and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (see John 4, 1 Corinthians 6). So an emphasis on the church building having a particular significance like that of the Old Testament temple seems misplaced. Therefore, we should not take cases of selling things as automatically akin to the buyers and sellers in Mark 11.

Of course, it is true that we could still buy and sell with wrong motives, and this would be sin in God’s sight. But the reason is not because we are defiling the temple or sidetracking it from its purpose, because the church building is not a temple. Instead, we would be sinning because we are defiling temples (believers; ourselves and others) through greed or selfishness or other wrong motivations.

When we see the Old Covenant emphasis on the holiness of the temple, it should cause us to treat our bodies with greater respect, as an act of worship. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

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