Some people get angry, but you can't always tell when they are angry. Instead, they kind of seethe — they slowly boil. Other people explode. They suddenly get mad and then they are over it. We all have different ways of expressing our anger, and we all have different things that irritate us, get under our skin, and cause us to be upset. We all have our boiling points.
God gets angry too. Jesus entered the temple and drove out the people who were buying and selling, telling them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves' " (Mark 11:17 NKJV). Mark also includes this helpful detail: "Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves" (11:15 NKJV).
I love this image of Jesus, because so often we see portraits of Him in which He appears anemic and wimpy. He doesn't look like He like could turn over a stick, much less a table. We like to picture Jesus with a lamb wrapped around His neck, but the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, knew indignation, even anger, when something was not right. And what was not right was that people were being kept away from the temple.
The moneychangers had a rip-off scheme of sorts going. When people came to offer their animals as sacrifices, the moneychangers would conveniently find something wrong with them. At the same time, they would happen to have a close-out deal on temple-approved sacrifices. So worshipers would have to buy the temple-approved sacrifices at inflated prices so they could approach God.
Not only that, but this was something that was keeping the Gentiles away. Gentiles, non-Jews, would come to worship God, but they were looked down upon with disdain. But that is not how God felt about the Gentiles. In Isaiah 56, God says,
"Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants — everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant — even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (verse 6-8 NKJV).
Jesus knew the temple, a house of prayer, was being misused. The moneychangers had been turning people away. So He did something dramatic. He turned their tables over. And then He drove them out. He was cleaning house. Why? Because things were a mess. They were turning people away when they are coming to find God.
Does this apply to us today? Sure it does. Let's say that someone who is not a believer comes to your church. We might look at that person and think, Why is she dressed that way? This is church. I have come to worship God and that is distracting. Or, What is with all the piercing? What is that about? Should such a person be here? But do we ever stop and think that some of these people might be visitors, and they might be coming to find God? By looking at them with a holier-than-thou attitude and giving them a hard time, we could actually be turning them away.
Instead, maybe we could conclude that they are new to church. Better yet, we could walk up and introduce ourselves and then introduce them to other people. We could start praying for them, asking God to help them see their need for Him. You see, these people need to be welcomed and loved — not looked down on because they don't look like us.
Yes, we need to remember that the church is a place to worship. It is a place to learn. It is a place to use our gifts. But it is also a place for sinners to find God. It is not a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners. So let's make people feel welcome.
Are you a bridge or a barrier for people coming to Christ? Do you help or hurt? Every believer is a witness. The question is whether you are a good one or a bad one.