I’m into the next section of John 2 in which Christ rolls into the temple and sets things straight [And by “sets things straight” I mean….well, I can’t write it because I’ll get myself in trouble, but if you’re a Marine, it’s that phrase we always use when we need to set things, or some person, straight – sure would like to teach this passage to a bunch of Marines!]. At any rate, this is a highly unusual event because never again does one see Christ acting in this manner, overturning tables, tossing money on the ground, running those who sell and their sheep and oxen right out of the temple. Shocking, really, which is just the point, but I’ll get to that later.
What struck me at first reading of this passage [In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. (vs. 14)], was what the “sellers” were doing and then what they were not doing. What they were doing was selling and sitting [the ESV adds “there” to “sitting” making the Greek read better in English, but the literal translation is and the money-changers sitting]. They were selling and they were sitting; they were making a living and they were sedentary, not moving, implanted where they were no doubt day after day making money.
What they were not doing was worshiping. They were going to the temple day after day to making a living off of the temple, but they were not there to do what the temple was designed for and what God had commanded them to do: worship him. This is a shocking indictment of them. What other group of people does Jesus literally physically attack in the gospels?
Consider, however, the implications. If you are making a living connected somehow to the proclamation of the gospel—preaching the gospel, writing books, giving seminars, leading worship, in contemporary Christian music, etc. etc.—this passage should make you step back and ask the question, “Am I sitting and selling or am I worshiping?” There is nothing wrong with making money in the proclamation of the gospel, “For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages”” (1 Timothy 5:18–19 ESV). What is wrong is when one becomes more interested in making a profit than in the worship of Jesus, and do not tell me that this is not a huge temptation for popular preachers and popular conference speakers and popular singers, because it is.
Beware then, O preacher/author/singer that your labor does not become sitting and selling, rather than worshiping. Jesus does not look kindly on this behavior.