A House of Prayer or A Den of Thieves? – Part Two

A black and white work by Rembrandt of Pharisees in the temple

When Jesus came to this planet over two thousand years ago, He encountered a rather mixed environment. Many of the people were open to Him and eager to hear what He had to say. But most of the others, consisting of a mixture of Jewish rulers, lawyers and scribes, despised Him because He taught the Truth. They had quite an active corrupt religious system and did not want Him disrupting or overturning it. One major problem area was in the Temple. They were allowing a practice of selling ‘priest approved’ sacrifices, along with the crooked exchange of currency from the ‘unclean’ Roman denarius to the lawful Jewish shekel used to support the Temple treasury. The problem was, that these were not only carried out right in God’s house, but also with the motive of benefitting the merchants (and possibly the priests) with a sizable profit.

Jesus did not agree with or approve of any of their actions. Therefore, He “went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”(Matthew 21:12-13).

People from all age groups are going from one place of worship to another in an attempt to find God and the Truth.

Contemporary worship service with people standing and raising arms in the air

Many feel that this issue was resolved during the time Jesus was present on earth. They think that the modern-day church certainly does not have these kinds of problems. While there are some issues in it, overall, everything seems fine, they say. Yet, right and left, churches are regularly seeing the departure of numerous long-standing members of their congregations, while some are even closing down altogether. Sins of the pastors or leaders and various members of the staff are being revealed, just as we read in Numbers 32:23: “…be sure your sin will find you out,” forcing them to step down or leave altogether. People from all age groups are going from one place of worship to another in an attempt to find God and the Truth.

Filling a building with vibrant individuals and ultimately, the profits gained from the tithes and offerings of such a crowd, now take precedence over proclaiming the Word of God.

Why is this occurring? For much of the same reason as it was during the time of Jesus: the church is selling the means of worshipping God for a profit. We won’t find actual doves and money changers today, but the church, as a whole, is now being conducted like a business or corporation. The pastor or leader is the ‘chief executive officer’ (or ‘manager of operations’) while the deacons, elders or other overseeing authority act as the ‘board of directors.’ God has no place in this arrangement, because He has been driven out. Filling a building with vibrant individuals and ultimately, the profits gained from the tithes and offerings of such a crowd, now take precedence over proclaiming the Word of God. The mention of sin and the cross is generally forbidden, while worship of ‘self’ is encouraged. Manmade wisdom and programs have replaced the Truth.

Overhead view of boy in green shirt laying stomach down on floor with hands resting on cut-out of a red paper heart

Our heart is now His home. We are no longer required to gather a lamb, dove, or anything else to bring to the high priest for our transgressions. Jesus is our high priest.

On the other hand, the true house of God is not limited to just a building or a collective body of worshippers. The Apostle Paul was led to ask, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). When we accept Jesus Christ into our life, we are surrendering ourselves over to Him and He reigns within us through His Spirit. Our heart is now His home. We are no longer required to gather a lamb, dove, or anything else to bring to the high priest for our transgressions. Jesus is our high priest. He became the Sacrifice of all sacrifices through His willing death on the cross. All that we owe God, He paid for in our place. We now offer the sacrifice of praise and willingly yield ourself to Him. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Yet, sadly, we still tend to commit the same kind of transgressions mentioned earlier. We take what constitutes the sacrifice and worship of God and sell it for our own profit or gain. We give ourselves over to the pleasures and cares of this world instead of the desires of God. We use the concept of being a holy and separated Christian as a cover for our true nature, and then do actions which only please our self, our flesh, and not Him.

God wants so much to be an intimate part of our life and well-being. That is why He sent His Son, on His behalf, to make possible again the fellowship and communion lost since the time of Adam and Eve.

A cross on a rocky hillside in Austria with mountains in the distance and a cloudy pastel sky in the background

Whether it is a building, a body of believers, or our heart, the ‘house’ of God must be the place where we meet with Him. It needs to be one of righteousness, reverence, and respect. When we sell out and let the world in, we lose our relationship with Him and push Him away. God wants so much to be an intimate part of our life and well-being. That is why He sent His Son, on His behalf, to make possible again the fellowship and communion lost since the time of Adam and Eve. He cleared out the corruption and restored the way for us to come to Him. Rather than being in and encouraging “a den of thieves” shrewdly stealing from God, let’s give up the worldliness and self-glorification to make His place into what He intended it to be all along—a house of prayer.

[Image credits: Featured image (when available) Yerson Retamal/pixabay, Negative Space/pexels); Rembrandt/public domain; Piqsels; Anna Kolosyuk/unsplash; Thanti Nguyen/unsplash]