So, you think GOD is a jerk?
#SoYouThinkGodIsAJerk is the podcast for March 4, 2018 The root of Jesus tipping over tables is in the transactional nature of the sacrifice. Why would he tip over tables when God wanted sacrifice? Or, did He? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John #John2 #GospelofJohn #Weddings #Love #Sacrifice #Temple #TurnOverTables #SassyJesus
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/4/2018 The 3rd Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read John 2:13-22.
All democracies of the world are to be based upon law. We say, “No one is above the law.” The idea is that when we all vow our allegiance to the concept of law, then there is an equal footing for all. If the law is king, then it doesn’t matter who is in charge, we should get the services we deserve from government. If personalities or favors are required, then there is no longer equal footing. Those who have more money will get more favors. This is what is supposed to separate us from banana republics where corruption is king. It is king because the system is not based upon a principle outside of personal gain.
We say that systems of government that are corrupt and are based upon this payoff system are “quid-pro-quo”. “Quid-pro-quo” is Latin and means “this for that.” I will give you this, if you give me that.
By the time Jesus comes with his whips and cords to turn over the tables in the Temple, the sacrificial system could have been compared to a banana republic with God as the corrupt leader. When we think of the sacrificial system that was introduced in Leviticus, we think of bringing a sacrifice and that sacrifice pays for our sins. The book has the Lord God tell Moses, “when they bring their offerings.” An offering is free of coercion. It is given out of the desire to be made free from sin. There can be two motivations for this desire. The first motivation can be that someone loves God so much that they don’t want to have sin, they recognize the sin, and then make the offering to be free of sin. This is what God wants.
The other motivation is one where you want to be blessed. In fact, the person wants to be blessed so much that they will find the best possible offering and give it in order to get a blessing. The idea is that if I give you this, you should, you must, and you will be a welch if you don’t, give me that. It changes the entire dynamic of the relationship.
The first motivation is one of relationship. God is god. We are not. We recognize that we have messed up and want to change. The second motivation is one of manipulation and exchange. We say that this second type of relationship is ‘transactional’ because it is based upon “quid-pro-quo.” The transaction places the parties as adversaries. It also is a power dynamic based relationship. There are ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ because I did this and I did that.
Whenever couples come to me in trouble with their marriage, it is usually because there is a power dynamic. There are all kinds of past issues that are brought up that should have accorded one party or the other with the goodness, kindness, and love they believe they deserve. The reason that kind of marriage is going to fail is because the focus is on what each party is getting, not what they are giving. The key is that for a marriage to succeed, both parties need to be giving, not counting.
The same is true in our relationship with God. The focus on our relationship is one of intimacy with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Even before the coming of Jesus, we can see in the Old Testament that when the Jews were sent into exile away from their sacrificial system, there was still forgiveness of sins through a circumcision of the heart, as Jeremiah says.
So, fast forward to Jesus entering the Temple. There is definitely something wrong going on in the Temple courtyard.
In the outer ring of the Temple, people who traveled a distance that would make bringing a sacrificial animal to the Temple impractical, could buy one there. That sounds great, except for one thing: by the time of Jesus the transactional nature of the sacrificial system was full throttle. It was so much a part of the life of the people that there was an entire system of commerce which had grown up around it. Even more, the focus was on “what one could get” from God through their sacrifice that was important.
To the Father who makes his sun to shine on the good AND the evil and his rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous, this kind of transactional relationship is a problem. The Father in Heaven gave you life without you giving him anything. We should assume that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit loves us because he does.
Jesus’ aggressive demanding cleansing of the Temple is a clarion call that the time for the transactional idea of religion was over, if it ever existed at all. Jesus’ action shows how this “quid-pro-quo” transactionalism of religion is a cancer to the soul. It creates and is the foundation for the question, “How could God do this to me?” and “Why did God let this happen? I have been good. I have been faithful. I have given this or that. I deserve this for that quid pro quo.”
Jesus’ demand that His Father’s House be cleansed of transaction would not be popular with the merchants and money changers who were worried about the bottom line. Throwing over someone’s booth at the market doesn’t exactly win friends and influence people. It makes enemies. With the amount of money that people would be exchanging at the one and only Temple for sacrifice, it is reasonable to believe that Jesus will be hated for this, among other things. The only one with the authority who could do such a thing was the Messiah. That is why they demand a sign from him. He better come clean or there will be a price to pay.
First, no one should mess with the income made at the Temple and, secondly, no one should mess with people’s transactional religion. The first reason is simple to understand. We all understand money. The second reason is a little more complicated, but goes back to the quid-pro-quo. If you give God something and your faith says he is expected to give it back, who is in control? We are. The relationship becomes a power contest between the Lord and us. Grudges are created from our expectations not being met. God does not deserve our love because he didn’t give me what I wanted, when I wanted, for what I gave.
That is not a loving relationship. I wouldn’t want to be in that relationship and that is not what Christ came to establish.
Even after he cleansed the Temple and did signs among the people to prove that he was the Messiah, Jesus still did not trust them. Did they believe because they loved God or did they believe because they saw signs and got what they wanted?
That is the question for us who are cleansing the Temples of the Holy Spirit within ourselves during Lent. Are we giving something up for Lent because we want something back or because we think we have to appease an angry God? Or, are we giving up something for Lent, or fasting during Lent, to become a better person in our relationship with God? Are we still harboring grudges against God for what we think he has or has not done for us? Could we conceive that God is with us and blessing us, but is waiting for others to stop having a transactional relationship with him to make our hearts desire happen? Do we demand a sign to do what he has been nudging us to do, or do we trust?
The challenge for us is to deny the original sin within that wants to be in control, wants to have this for that, wants to be in charge. Our principle of governing is love. No one is above Love. It is greater than the law, greater than quid-pro-quo, and it is our quest this Lent. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian