Deuteronomy 4-6 Mark 11:1-18
“When Jesus returned to Jerusalem, he went into the Temple and began to throw out those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of those who were exchanging different kinds of money, and he upset the benches of those who were selling doves.” (Mark 11:15)
The practice probably began with good intentions. Travelers would come from all over to make a sacrifice at the Temple only to be told that their lamb didn’t meet the requirements God set for a sacrifice. Dismayed travelers would be at a loss: they’d made the long trip to Jerusalem only to be told that the sacrifice wasn’t acceptable. So someone had the idea of setting up a system to provide sacrifices that met God’s standards. Jacob’s Lambs set up shop outside the area where lambs were brought in. Jacob could save you time by pre-certifying your sacrifice. If your lamb was good enough, he’d give you a certificate, for a small fee, that would note that he’d inspected it. If your lamb didn’t meet standards, he’d exchange your lamb and some coin for a lamb that was an acceptable sacrifice.
The problem came when Jacob decided that there was good money in that business, and soon, those pre-certification examinations began finding more flaws in the lambs and travelers were forced to shell out the shekels to exchange their flawed lambs for Jacob’s perfect lambs. Only, the next day, those flawed lambs were sold as perfect to the next set of weary travelers hoping to honor God. Perhaps the priests were in on it, getting a kickback from Jacob on every lamb exchanged. While we don’t know the real story, I think something like that happened and it had been going on for years. When Jesus came to the Temple, perhaps thinking about His own, upcoming sacrifice, everything came to a head for Him and He went ballistic. These people were cheating those who sought to worship God. The dove tables were set up for the poorest pilgrims who couldn’t afford lambs, so not only were these guys getting rich from cheating wealthy travelers, they were abusing and taking advantage of those in poverty.
The reminder for me as I read this passage is that God cares about my integrity as a Christian, and He cares about those in poverty around me. If God cares about my integrity, am I going to twist my religious beliefs to make a quick buck or am I going to care as much about my integrity as God does? If God cares about those in poverty around me, shouldn’t I care as much about them as He does?
Lord, may all my expressions of my faith honor You and my I show the same concern for people in poverty that you do.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.