By Pr Isaiah White
God’s temple is a house of prayer, not a den of thieves. In the Scriptures (John 13-22, Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48), we are introduced to a scene where Jesus gets angry and aggressively attacks traders in a Temple.
“Then Jesus went into the Temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the Temple and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.
“And He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Matthew 21:12-13).
Two classes of Church crooks received his wrath: those who bought and sold sacrificial animals and those who exchanged Greek and Roman coinage (with their idol images) into currency acceptable in the temple; with extravagant fees charged for the services.
William Barclay, a Bible commentator observed that it “Was a rampant and shameless injustice; and what was worse, it was being done in the name of religion.”
The justification for this corruption was that Judaism exercised a sacrificial religion, where people had to offer sacrifices to attain forgiveness and other favours, both spiritual and materialistic from God.
There were prescribed modes of sacrifices for particular sins and prayer requests.
The priests and Levites at the Temple always gave guidance on what animal sacrifice one was to offer depending on what one wanted.
Since it was the role of Temple management to determine which offering was worth and acceptable before God, they took it upon themselves to offer the suitable animals, and all other offertories suitable and acceptable to God, but at a price.
This is how religious merchandise found itself in the Temple.
It was not that the Temple was invaded by external vendors and merchants who transacted their merchandise in the Temple without the consent and vetting of the priests and the management of the Temple.
Whatever was sold and bought in the Temple was ordained by the priests. The merchandise in the Temple was strictly for worship, prayer and praise purposes.
In essence, the priests were using religion and belief to make money out of the people.
In this Temple at Jerusalem, religious leaders had introduced some sort of spiritual affairs market.
The priests and their agents made profits in the name of religion and belief. They had turned a house of prayer into a den of thieves, disguised as serving God.
This is why Christ drove these religious merchants and their merchandise out of the Temple, reminding them that selling and buying are forbidden in the house of God.
God does not sell His blessing and so are His true servants of the Gospel. Nothing is for sale from God. Secondly, God has worshippers, not buyers.
We are not called to purchase a thing from God regardless of the disguise and justification.
The false teachings
Turning the Gospel into merchandise begins with the false teaching by false teachers.
The false teachers use deception, and this is dangerous because it is a mixture of truth and lies.
Many fall prey to the devil because in his disguise as the angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), he misquotes scriptures just like he did when tempting Christ (Matthew 4:1-11).
The priests in Matthew 21:12-13 used the sacrificial system to their advantage.
People bought and spent all their wealth thinking they were doing the will of God as the priests claimed.
Judaism, like many other religions around the world, taught that the way to Heaven was earned through both one’s acts and wealth.
You must earn everything with God and the way to do that is by doing whatever your religious leaders and doctrines dictate.
One of the most dangerous perversions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the idea that man can earn it by himself and through his own works.
The prosperity Gospel is a version of this deception claiming that God promises Christians a healthy and financially prosperous life if only they are sufficiently faithful.
Prosperity teachers twist Bible verses to misrepresent God and his word in the ears of gullible and vulnerable believers.
People now believe they can confess things into existence, they believe they are small gods, people are assured in the “Name it and claim it,” “Blab it and grab it,” and “Health and wealth” Gospel.
These false positions are built on proof-texting (using Bible verses out of their contexts).
Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? There are five areas in which the prosperity gospel misleads people:
1-The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12, 15, 17, 22) is a means to material entitlement.
2-Jesus’s atonement extends to the “sin” of material poverty.
3-Christians give in order to gain material compensation from God.
4-Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity.
5-Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity.
It is by these false teachings and poor Bible reading, coupled with the practice of modern Churches turning themselves into marketplaces.
Many people have been robbed and financially abused by these false teachers through false Gospel.
In today’s Churches, there are items for sale. These “holy” items are claimed to contain blessings.
Believers are often seen buying “holy” oil, water, bread, rice, handkerchiefs, and scuffs, among others.
It is claimed that whoever buys these items and uses them shall be blessed.
Believers who buy these items are assured of a materialistic reward or even physical healing for those who have physical ailments.
False pastors are fleecing people in the name of God. Some travel to and from Israel and carry items from the holy land, claiming such items have special powers to solve both the materialistic and physical problems that people face.
These fraudulent pastors hold conferences, and private and public dinners shortly after those “holy trips.”
People are heavily charged to participate in those events because they claim whoever attends at a fee will ‘tap into the anointing’.
Many of these pastors conduct ritual baths claiming they cleanse believers of all mishaps and demons.
Some of these pastors charge for special prayers and categorize people based on the amount these people are willing to pay for prayers.
In such Churches, those with big cheques in the offertory earn special seats either on the pulpit or at the front of the congregation.
This Gospel merchandise is popularized in the teaching of sowing the seed to harvest.
The idea that we give in the Church to be given more is heretical and unchristian. It is this heresay that has led many to believe in the deception of sowing the seed.
In that false Gospel, we are not blessed for our giving, but rather compensated.
According to this principle of seed-sowing purportedly based on Mark 10:30, Christians are pushed to give generously to others because when they do, God gives back more in return.
This, in turn, leads to a cycle of ever-increasing prosperity. As Gloria Copeland put it in her book, God’s Will is Prosperity: “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000.
In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal.” It is evident, then, that the prosperity Gospel’s doctrine of giving is built on faulty motives.
Whereas Jesus taught His disciples to “Give, hoping for nothing in return” (Luke 6:35), prosperity theologians teach their disciples to give because they will get a great return.
The Gospel merchants teach that Christ died so that everyone should be materially rich and have no diseases in the body.
To be poor and sick is a sin, so they say. However, while poverty is not something God condons, He does not condemn people and considers them to be lesser Christians based on their economic status.
An erroneous reading of 2 Corinthians 8:9 reads: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake, He became poor, that you, through His poverty, may become rich.”
People believe Paul was teaching about an increase in material wealth, but a contextual reading reveals he was teaching the exact opposite principle.
Indeed, Paul was teaching the Corinthians that since Christ accomplished so much for them through the atonement, they should empty themselves of their riches in service of the Savior.
This is why just five short verses later, Paul would urge the Corinthians to give their wealth away to their needy brothers, writing that “now at this time your abundance may supply their lack” (2 Corinthians 8:14).
The Gospel is for free
In the Old Testament (2 Kings 5:10-14), Naaman thought he could pay for his healing, but the prophet confirmed that no one can pay for their healing; not even in the version of gifting the man of God.
When Gehazi took the gifts from the hand of Naaman behind the prophet, he got the leprosy of Naaman.
Ministers who are charging or disguising their charge as gifts, are taking on diseases or problems of those they fleece.
In the New Testament, Simon thought he could pay to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but Peter told Simon that the gift of God cannot be purchased with money (Acts 8:20).
God has always reminded all of us with spiritual gifts and talents in this mission field that freely you were given, so freely we should give (Matthew 10:5-8).
Salvation is not something one can purchase or merit by way of good works.
Paul clearly expressed the fact that eternal salvation is the “Gift of God” (Romans 6:23).
It is a free gift (Romans 5:15-18). Further, he expressed to the Ephesians that it was by grace that they were saved through faith: “And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).