Thursday, April 19, 2012
For much of my life, I understood Jesus as criticizing the vendors in the temple for “ripping off” the people. They were robbing them, perhaps by overcharging them. Or, I thought that Jesus was unhappy about the temple courts being used for commerce, rather than prayer. These suppositions might be accurate, but they don’t get Jesus’ point in quoting the “den of thieves” line from Jeremiah. If we go back and read that verse in context, we realize that the Lord is rebuking the Jews for presuming upon him because they have the Temple. The people of God were sinning grossly. But, rather than repenting, they figured that since they had the temple on their side, they were preserved from God’s judgment. The temple was a “den of thieves” in that it was supposed to be a safe place where the people could take refuge from God’s wrath, even if they were dishonoring him with their actions.'Nuff Said.
We, of course, do not have the temple as our “den of thieves.” But sometimes we can turn God’s grace and forgiveness into a “den of thieves.” We do this when we receive God’s grace cheaply, using it as an excuse to live a life contrary to God’s will for us. We think, “Well, this might be wrong, but God will always forgive me.” Thus, we presume upon God’s grace, using it as an excuse to keep on sinning rather than a motivation for holy living.