House of Prayer, Den of Thieves :: by Grant Phillips

Twice, Jesus ran the money changers out of the Temple. The first time was at the beginning of His ministry just after His first miracle, turning the water into wine. The second time was at the end of His ministry right after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The first incident is recorded in John 2:13-25. The second incident is recorded in Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-18; and Luke 19:45-48.

Caiaphas, the high priest, and his family were becoming quite wealthy by selling sacrificial animals at the temple and exchanging (or should I say, short-changing) money for the worshippers to buy the animals for sacrifice. Furthermore, the worshippers should have been bringing their own sacrifice as prescribed by the Law, but were buying them from peddlers instead. Most of the time, the ‘sacrificial’ animals didn’t even qualify under God’s guidelines as an acceptable sacrifice.

The worshippers had gotten lazy and were not following God’s commands. Those in charge of the temple were also ignoring God’s commands and becoming wealthy due to their own greed.

Isn’t this exactly what is taking place today in churches across America? Respect for the house of God had gone out the window, not to mention respect for God who we are supposedly worshipping. Everything God has told us in His Word is being taken lightly or not at all.

The Temple of Jesus’ day was significant because it represented the God of Israel who had been their God since the days of Abraham. Very strict guidelines were given by God when they came to the structure that represented His presence among them. As a nation, they were His people, but because of His holiness, He demanded, and rightfully so, their respect.

Today the Church is the body (structure) of Christ, and where the Church meets to worship, God demands the same respect. This same God of Israel is the same God of the Church and has been so since the days of Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter two.

Jesus said in Matthew 21:13, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

He said in Mark 11:17, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves.”

He said in Luke 19:46, “It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

He said, In John 2:16, “Take these things from here; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”

We (Christians) are all  guilty to one extent or another of showing disrespect for God’s house. When I say ‘God’s house’ you may think I’m referring to the building where the church meets, and I am. However, we also need to consider our own person. The Lord makes it clear, for example in the Apostle Paul’s letters, that we are the body of Christ.

“House of Prayer,” Where The Church Meets

I will be referring to the ‘building’ where the Church meets as the ‘church’ with a small ‘c.’ I will be referring to the ‘body of Christ’ as the ‘Church’ with a capital ‘C.’

The church should be a place that is shown the highest respect because this is where the Church comes together to worship the one and only true and holy God. Worship is directed to His only begotten Son, Jesus, because it is Jesus that provides our eternal salvation by His works. It is the Holy Spirit that has sealed each of us as a guarantee of our salvation and security in Him. Because of our faith in His Son, the Father gives us grace we don’t deserve. We come together to learn of Him, and by doing so, to live for Him in our daily lives.

Much disrespect has been shown this church when so many things go on within its walls that dishonor the one it represents, our holy God.

When I was a child in church I dared not make a disturbance of any kind. There would be immediate consequences to pay. However today, children and adults alike do not treat the church in a manner that deserves respect. It is just a place to meet and entertain each other, and then go home, feeling so good, and saying, “What a fine service we had today.”

“House of Prayer” the Body of Christ

What about us as individuals? What kind of respect are we showing the Father with our lives, not just our bodies, but our whole self?

Can those without Christ tell any difference in how they live and how we live? Have they ever heard anything from us about God? Are we ‘uppity’ toward them, or do we play along and wallow in their sins with them? Are we wrapped up in the things of the world, or the things of God? What do we talk about? What do we listen to? What do we read?

If Jesus would walk into many churches today, I have no doubt that He would do exactly what He did over 2,000 years ago as recorded in the Scripture verses mentioned at the beginning of this article.

And how many of us Christians will have only wood, hay and stubble to show for our lives when He examines our works? (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) The Scriptures say that we (true Christians) are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Is our house a “den of thieves?” We need to know the answer to that question. We need to talk to Him about it and get it settled once and for all.

“Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

This is a statement God made to His own people. We (true Christians) are also His people. Could He be making that statement to us today? Think about it.

Grant Phillips