Over/Under…At Church?? ~ John 2:13-17

IMG_1644About 25 years ago, I agreed to volunteer at a coworker’s church bazaar. I helped work the “over/under” booth, the most popular booth at the bazaar, I was told. Over/Under was a dice game in which patrons would guess whether the roll of two dice would be over, under, or equal to 7. They made their choice by placing $1 or $2 in one of three spots on the table: “over”, “under” or “seven”. Two dice were rolled. Players who selected “over” or “under” with a corresponding roll over or under 7 received their original money back plus an equal amount. If they selected “seven” with a seven rolled they received their money back plus a double amount. Money placed in the incorrect spot was donated to the church. It sure looked like gambling to me, but I was told the money placed on the table was not a bet; it was a “contribution”. As we worked the booth into the nighttime hours, patrons were three and four deep around the booth, drinking beer (as we were, too – it was free for volunteers), and pushing their way to the tables to offer their contributions.

Admittedly, I enjoyed working Over/Under. It was fast-paced and we got all the food and beer we wanted. But with all of that, I felt that something wasn’t quite right about this game at the church bazaar.

And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 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 money changers 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 place of business.” (John 2:14-16)

According to my Bible’s study notes, the money changers and vendors selling doves and other livestock were there to serve foreigners that came on pilgrimage to offer sacrifices to God. They arrived with foreign currency that needed to be exchanged, and rather than haul sacrificial animals with them on their journey, these were offered for sale as a convenience. Apparently, human greed had taken over, and the money changers and other vendors were making a handsome profit by charging exorbitant prices for their goods and services. The purpose for visiting the temple was overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of the temple marketplace. God had been shoved into the background in favor of money and profits. Jesus, rightfully angered, literally turned their tables and ran them off.

I’m quite certain that Jesus would have had the same reaction had He visited that church bazaar. Aside from being on church property, I recall nothing at that bazaar that pointed to Christ. The Gospel was not shared. Worship was not discussed. This was not a community outreach; it was a church fundraiser. Many of the activities going on at the bazaar were activities that could happen at any club fundraiser. We looked just like the world. We were conducting business, nothing more. As I ponder this many years later, having matured somewhat in my faith, I feel bad for having participated and I have asked God to forgive me. Thank God for His mercy and grace!

The cross at First Baptist Church of Keller

The cross at First Baptist Church of Keller

Today, many churches are blurring the lines between things of the world and things of God. Many feel it is important that the church “fit in” to society to attract and retain members. Make people comfortable. Use décor that says anything but “church”. Offer a booming sound system and a gourmet coffee bar. Surrender to societal norms and values. Preach about prosperity and self worth with a big smile while never mentioning the eternal consequences of sin and the forgiveness offered only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’m certain that Jesus would disagree. Interestingly, the other three Gospels record these words of Jesus as He drove the vendors from the temple, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer; but you have made it a robbers’ den.’” (Luke 19:46) We must all lift our church leaders in prayer as we work with them, not to blend with the world to suit our own fancies, but to be salt and light unto a world that so desperately needs to hear the Gospel.

Ponder this: What would Jesus think if He walked into my church? What would He see? What would He hear? Would He be pleased, or would He clear the place out?

My Prayer for Today: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for leading me to First Baptist Church of Keller. Be with all who preach and teach there, that Your Word would always be our focus. I lift up Your church around the country and around the world. Open our eyes and ears that we might see any points of diversion from Your Word and compel us to be faithful stewards of the Gospel. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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