Archive for September 3rd, 2008

God Hates Figs?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Today’s scripture: Luke 19:45-48 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Mark Shoup):

Have you ever read something in the Bible, and immediately thought that something didn’t add up? Almost like you were only getting part of the story?

One fine example of this is in Matthew 21:19 where Jesus is hungry and withers a fig tree because it is out of season and bears no fruit. It’s not like the poor fig tree could help that it was the wrong time of year for figs. Taking this scripture on its own out of context might lead you to the conclusion that God hates figs!

For me, today’s scripture passage (and its parallels in the other gospels) is another example of this; an example of where Jesus’ reaction doesn’t seem to fit the circumstances. After all, don’t we even today engage in minor commerce inside the church, with different types of fundraising, class fees and other such things? And even though Jesus may not have been a fan of the temple tax, he otherwise advocated paying it (Matthew 17), so it is doubtful that was the problem.

No, to understand what had Jesus so hot under the collar, we have to understand a little bit about how the ancient temple was set up. In that time, the temple was arranged in concentric areas, where each deeper area was more exclusive so that at the very center, only the high priest could enter. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the most marginalized people of the time (those who were ‘unclean’ for whatever reason) would have only been able to gain entrance to the outermost part of the temple. This was the very part where the merchants and currency exchangers had set up their operations — squeezing out those who were already marginalized.

In light of this, the issue becomes one of those needing God the most being forced out of the temple. Of course Jesus was perturbed! In fact, during his entire ministry I’m not aware of a single time he failed to stand up for oppressed and marginalized people.

So if Jesus was so against pushing people away from God, it only makes sense that we should look at ourselves and make sure we are not doing the same thing in some way. This could take the form of imposing religious rules on someone they can not keep, disqualifying someone from service within the church because you perceive them to be ‘sinful’, or any number of other ways we set up road blocks between people and God.

Thought for the day: God, who am I preventing from having a close relationship with You? Who can I help become closer to You?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10
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