When we were in the Philippines, we had the opportunity to travel to the Quiapo district of Manila. Here is where the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is located. It is a large Catholic church where the life size statue of Jesus with dark skin is on display (and actually worshiped). Surrounding this church is a large market place, one of the most crowded places we visited. As we walked through the market place, we came to the part of the market that was in the outer courts of the church. Here I felt a pain in my spirit that must have been what Jesus felt as he entered the temple.
People were using the draw of the church to make a profit. Even worse, they were selling idolatrous items. One such example is in this picture here. These candles are color coded and supposedly bring you specific things based on the color (see the chart in the picture). What you can’t see is the “black” candle that was used to place curses on others. The presence of Satan in this market was so think I physically was sick to my stomach and had a headache. Once I was passed this and over to the front doors of the church, that feeling went away.
During this experience, I reflected back to this passage in my mind. “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matt 21:12-13) John’s account is even a little more graphic. “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”” (John 2:15-17)
As I read these accounts today, I am taken back to that moment in the Philippines and I can feel the pain that Jesus must have felt seeing how His Father’s house was being treated. But the truth is, this doesn’t only happen in first century Jerusalem or in Manila… it happens right here in the USA as well. When churches begin to put capitalism and funds over the gospel message, they’re doing the exact same thing that drove Jesus to this kind of a reaction.
There’s nothing wrong with big building and churches spending money to be attractive to people. If the purpose behind those expenditures is to get the gospel message to more people, then by all means… but when the goal is simply to drive more people in seats so a larger offering can be collected… for even more program… then they deserve the same whip that Jesus fashioned. Buildings and programs and image do matter… but only if their purpose is founded on getting the gospel message to more people.
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