The Cannibal Temple

In 2 Samuel 7 we learn that God takes care of housing us before He expects us to provide a house for Him, and in chapter 12, we see that it is wicked to take the little that sustains the poor and use it to provide for the rich. When we turn then to Mark 12, it becomes clear once again that Jesus is indeed a true son of David, a lover of God’s word, and that while the Jewish leaders may have memorized the Scriptures, they haven’t got the first idea of what’s in them.

In Mark 12, Jesus points out several instances of scribes missing the point: they love to wear long robes and get special greetings; they make long prayers in order to appear holy, and they used their positions of authority to receive preferential treatment. In verse 40 Jesus gives us this description: they devour widow’s houses. And this is where the image of the cannibal temple comes from: the temple system, that whole way of serving God as practiced by the scribes, eats smaller, defenseless houses, by consuming their resources in pursuit of honor and luxury. Things that are rightly used for the glory of God are wrongly used when devoted to the glory of man. The scribes are stealing glory from God, and are ripping off God’s faithful people in order to pay for it.

As the text goes on in verse 41, an object lesson walks up. Jesus, sitting in view of the offering box, sees number of rich people putting in substantial sums, followed by a poor widow who puts in two pennies. Jesus comments that the rich people gave their spare change, but this woman put her whole life into the box. Jesus does make a powerful point about giving, but this point is set in a larger context, and that is what we are concerned with today.

This widow’s house has just been “eaten” by the temple treasury. The temple leaders led this woman to believe that it was more important that God’s house have her money than that she be fed and sheltered and clothed. She is responding to the lie that giving to God’s house is more important than God’s people having houses. To make matters worse, the ones who should be coming alongside this woman and making sure that she is taken care of are the ones sending her more fundraising letters and appeals in the name of the temple. This makes Jesus furious, and it should infuriate us, too.

The reason why the scribes are in error is that the temple is made for man, not man for the temple, which means that people are more important than buildings. The Church, God’s new temple, made up of people, embodies God to the world, and it is this temple that God is most concerned about preserving and sustaining. A cannibal temple is a great evil in God’s sight, because He cares more about the people who are being robbed and misled than He does about the gold on the altar.

This leads us to some important conclusions: Our financial priorities need to reflect these principles. If one of us is about to have his house devoured,his livelihood taken away, or his health destroyed, God would rather have us care for that person than pay off our building. If you are struggling to provide for your family, if your house would be devoured by giving an offering to God, then please, keep your money. Let God take care of your house first, and only then give back to Him.

Love every example you see of a devoted heart giving sacrificially to God, and hate every wicked pastor or false shepherd who uses the name of God or the needs of God’s ministry or building project to devour widow’s houses. Remember God’s priorities: people are more important than buildings. Don’t see a building as something to be served; use it as a means to serve and love people, men and women, the true temple of God.

Posted on Thursday, March 06, 2014 by CJ Bowen