Thursday, August 8, 2013

Money Changers

There are several stories in the Bible of Jesus burning with righteous anger. One of these is detailed in Mark 11:15-16:

"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts."

In this story Jesus arrives at the temple to worship and finds that it is overflowing with those seeking to line their own pockets. Looking at this scene from the point of view of the merchants, they would have strenuously argued that they had every right to be there. After all, they were providing an essential service to the worshippers. Yet while furnishing suitable animals for sacrifice according to the law and making available the proper currency with which to pay the temple tax, they really only cared about their own profit margins. Their presence in the temple courtyard did not serve in any way to bring glory to God.

I was reminded of that ancient story by a recent event involving the Catholic pope who was visiting Brazil. He had been scheduled to give his closing mass in the working-class suburb of Guaratiba, outside of Rio de Janeiro. However, due to torrential rains that led to significant flooding, the meeting venue had to be changed at the last minute. This was a serious blow to the many locals who had spent their life savings stocking up on wares that they had planned to hawk to the sea of pilgrims set to descend on their town. With the changing of the venue, all of their profit-minded dreams came to ruin. These very poor people spent not only their entire life's savings, but also borrowed heavily, setting themselves up for a lifetime of debt. They became so focussed on the dollar signs bouncing before their eyes and the huge profits to be made, that they lost sight of being about the Lord's business.