Take These Things Away

by Michael E. Brooks
“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When he had made a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And he said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make my Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house has eaten me up'” (John 2:13-17).
Some people have no business being where they are. I once visited a region in Asia where the local indigenous people were losing land to members of the ethnic and religious majority. These newcomers were encroaching by building small huts and clearing trees. Some valuable trees were being cut and the timber stolen. Hillsides were being slashed, inviting erosion, in order to claim “improvements” on the land. Local authorities were either turning blind eyes or actively helping the encroachers. Good people with legal claim to the land were suffering damage and loss, and some were losing their homes altogether.
Doesn’t that make one angry? It should. When Jesus saw the merchants defiling the temple and taking God’s house as their own place of business he reacted with anger. We politely say he was “filled with righteous indignation.” Call it what you like, he was mad at them and let them know it. His anger was not sinful, as it was not personal, it did not lead him to sin, and it did not contribute to hatred or other sinful attitudes. It did lead him to do something about their sin.
Paul says, “Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Anger can be a good thing if it is directed correctly, is not allowed to prompt sinful behavior, and does not continue beyond a reasonable (profitable) time. Lingering anger leads to bitterness, hatred, and resentment.
Someone has said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” There are times when we must recognize evil and stand against it. Jesus did. There are many avenues of action available to us. We may stand up and speak out, in public forum and private audience. We may (and must) continue to do what is right and just, no matter what others are doing or what they may urge us to do. Sometimes it is possible to physically resist, without doing harm to others. Always and above all we must pray to God for his help and we must preach the Gospel of peace.

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