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money-making or the blind and the lame

Having entered into Jerusalem, all the city was stirred up, stating, “Who is this man?” So the crowds stated, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” And Jesus went in into the temple and drove out all selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the desks of the money-clippers and the seats of those selling the doves. He stated to them, “It has been written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came near to him in the temple, and he healed them. Matthew 21: 11-14
Have you tried googling “How did Donald Trump become wealthy?” The basic answer is simple – buying and selling. Buying and selling on a grand scale. If you google the same question about Jared Kushner, the President’s wealthy son-in-law, the answer was near enough the same – buying and selling property on a grand scale.

It’s no wonder there are very serious concerns as to what motivates White House decisions. Are US policies supporting Trump or the people? 

But there is a bigger question. Is there anything actually harmful in being motivated by money-making?

Take a look at the incident in bold above recorded in the eyewitness biography of Jesus Christ written by Matthew. The year is AD 30; the place is Jerusalem. It’s the last few days before Jesus’ execution on ‘Good Friday’. 

Reading again Matthew’s record, have you spotted the contrasts? Both of them?

‘A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.’ (Samuel Grafton, American journalist, 1907-1997)
The first one is this. Around 700 years before Jesus came to earth and was born in Bethlehem, the then Jerusalem Temple was intended to be the place – the only place - on earth where anybody (anybody irrespective of nationality or race or ethnicity) would be able to enter and pray. We know that because, there in Jerusalem around BC 710, Isaiah wrote that message from the LORD God ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’ and his eponymous book has been preserved in the national archives of the Jews ever since that time.

The Jerusalem temple was to be the house, on earth, of the God of the skies, who would respond to and have friendship with those who prayed to him. 

The people of God – the Jews – had taken that house of prayer and made money for themselves out of it. In AD 30, those who wished to meet with the God who is there had to pray in the middle of a car boot sale, had to change their money gifts into Temple Money and submit to whatever exchange rates were available at Temple bureaux de change. They had to enrich others before they could pray before the God who freely gives to all who ask him.

We catch a flavour of this from the word Matthew uses to describe the bureaux de change operators– kollubiston, from kollubos which literally means ‘clipper’ – money-clippers. Because coins had intrinsic value (being made of silver for instance) clipping could enhance the buying and selling trade. What about “selling” doves? Aren’t they ‘two-a-penny’? 

The second startling contrast is between those selling and buying, motivated by wealth, and Jesus, motivated by compassion. The blind came to him there. They couldn’t see anything. Their lives were in a hopeless mess. When they prayed to him he healed them – for free. The lame came to him there. They couldn’t move themselves. Their lives were in a hopeless mess. When they prayed to him he healed them – for free.

Today the Jerusalem temple is no more. It was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. Jesus stated that he himself is its replacement. He stated, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Incidentally – but importantly - the Romans also were "taxing" (making money out of) the Jewish people. Those who had sold and bought and profited from temple misuse were themselves oppressed by those motivated by money. Am I also buying and selling without regard for others. When I go to a car-boot sale am I hoping to pick-up a Lowry for £5 and thereby rob the seller?

‘The person who serves God for money will soon serve the devil for better wages.’ (Roger L’Estrange, author, 1616-1704) 
After AD 70, the Jews no longer had a building as a house of prayer. But many, many of them have since found the new house of prayer. Those who come near to him find him to be the place of seeing for the blind and of walking for the lame. This Jesus, killed for money and power, rose from the dead. Alive he says, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me.” 

Sinner Syvret

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