Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Religion Does

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. "And you shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. "For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you."And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. Exodus 12:21-24 NAS

And the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a house of merchandise."
John 2:13-16 NAS

I am not one who enjoys reading through the Bible every year. I’ve tried it but I like to linger over what I am reading rather than plowing through a set number of chapters per day. I do however try to read in the OT and the NT every day. I’ve been reading in Exodus and the gospel of John and it has made an interesting contrast to see God’s instructions concerning the Passover and what it had become in Jesus’ day.

The Passover was the awesome display of God’s power in delivering His people out of bondage. Now everything that symbolized and fulfilled the Passover feast was being sold in the temple courtyard and often at exorbitant prices by religious profiteers. By the time Jesus walked the earth it had been commercialized and complicated to the point that Jesus felt compelled to clean the whole thing up. What was intended to be a wonderful commemoration of what God had done for them was now a money making scheme. What was to be a house of prayer had become a place of business. Would His verdict be so very different today?

How would this apply to you and to me? First, we should be grateful for the wealth of study and discipleship materials that are available. I have been deeply enriched in my personal life from these resources. I am grateful that Christian bookstores sell beautiful Christian themed accessories for our homes. However, we should realize that a “Christian industry” has risen to meet genuine needs. But with it comes all the perils of fortune, fame, crass materialism and selfish ambition. I suspect Jesus might be tempted to clear the house again. We need to soberly assess Christian celebrity speakers who charge exorbitantly large speaking fees. Just because a church can afford to pay them doesn’t mean it is right. I know many who give unselfishly of their time and talents to the cause of Christ with no thought of monetary rewards. Some are justly recompensed for their labor and efforts. The heart of the matter is the matter of our hearts. 1 Peter 5:2 “Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” With Him our motives are so important.

In the same way, it would be good to look at how we as a family celebrate our meaningful holidays. Have we fallen prey to emphasizing the material aspect of holidays and trivializing the spiritual reality we are supposedly celebrating? If you realize that it has become less than it should be resolve now and brainstorm with your friends and family to make it more about Him. Take it back as your act of worship to Him.

MY PRAYER: Lord, I don’t want to harbor selfish ambition or an unhealthy desire to receive earthly rewards. Help me to be eager to serve out of the overflow of all You have done in my life. Help me to resist the pull and influence of religious profiteers. In Jesus’ name.
MY CONFESSION: The Lord’s zeal will help me guard my home and my heart. Our celebrations will focus on substance and honoring You. We will not merchandize your holy things.