Legend has it a missionary first prayed the famous “prayer of leadership”: “O Lord, help me draw a line in the sand, but please help it not be in a stupid place.”

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There are times we must draw lines in the sand and say, “no more.”  There are times we must say, “Nah…not worth it.”  Times we stand strong and times we just “let it go.”

Far too many times, however, we Christians tend to get these choices backwards.

In the past two hundred years, for example, the American Church has been consumed over such deep, theological issues as:

  • organ versus piano,
  • piano versus guitar,
  • drums or no drums,
  • choirs versus worship teams,
  • standing, kneeling, sitting in worship,
  • King James Version versus modern English translations,
  • the “traditional music of the church” or the music of the street,
  • suits or blue jeans.

And as you may have guessed, not a single one of these issues consuming us is actually worth fighting about because most of them are about “us” when the mission of Jesus calls us to be about others.

Jesus, however, would have none of that.  He showed us where the line should be drawn and how passionately we should defend that line.  We read in John 2:13-17:

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 

John 2:13-17
New International Version

This is the first Passover recorded by the Gospel writer, Apostle John.  Passover was a celebration of when the Lord freed the Jewish people from the Egyptians.  They remember this time as a festival and they remembered when the blood of a lamb protected their firstborns from the Angel of Death in the final plague sent against Egypt.

The problem in our story today was not that it was Passover.

Nor was there a problem with people selling animals for sacrifice.  That was a matter of convenience because so many Jewish pilgrims traveled a long way.

The practice of exchanging money wasn’t problematic either because the Jewish people needed to exchange the coins they used for the Tyrian coin selected by the Great Sanhedrin because of its purity.

The problem was it was mostly a racket where Jewish people took advantage of their countrymen.  The pilgrims needed a sacrifice and more often than not, whatever they brought with them wasn’t good enough.  Then they’d have to buy a “temple-approved sacrifice” (which were overpriced).

When they exchanged the coins, they would charge high percentages for this service.

The Son of God was not pleased at this perversion of turning the place of worship at a festival of worship into a market for robbing the worshippers.  And the entire spectacle was with the approval of the Great Sanhedrin and priests of the people!

Image courtesy of Igniter Media and modified by the author.

So what did Jesus do?

He made a whip and cleaned house.

Can you imagine the scene?  Jesus cracking this whip, coins—both foreign and domestic, flying everywhere as their neatly organized tables are turned into piles of rubbles.  Animals brawling and running in all directions as the money-changers scramble for their coins now rolling across the stone floor of the outer courts.  And in the middle of all this cacophony the Son of God yells, “Get these out of here!  Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

His objection was not to the business practice of making profit but WHERE they were making profit and for what reason.

But this holy outrage reminds us there are times we must stand against injustice.  We must stand against those who would take advantage of the less vulnerable.  “Good anger” is righteous indignation.  It’s anger for the right reasons. 

It is THIS anger leading to constructive action.  Good anger becomes fuel for building the Kingdom of God.  This is what Jesus taught us.

He didn’t get mad because He wasn’t getting His way.  He wasn’t pouting because people hurt His feelings.  He got fired up and cleaned house because Holy things had been thrown to the dogs.  The place of prayer had become a hive of thieves.

When you get angry, does it become an opportunity to testify of your faith and the Lord you represent?  Let’s draw the line HE would want us to draw and defend His line.