When he had gone into the temple he began to cast out those who were engaged in selling. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it ‘a robber’s cave.’” He was teaching every day in the Temple.
Luke 19: 45-7
Unlike Mark, Luke does not term the Temple “a house of prayer for all people.” For Luke, the Temple “has a significant role for Judaism and for the first Jerusalem community, but not an enduring role for the Gentiles” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, p. 300). In Acts Luke will have the departing Jesus say to his disciples: [You] . . . “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Luke 1: 8) The Temple is to exist in the hearts of all believers, in all who welcome and receive the kingdom of God that Jesus announces.
As he enters Jerusalem, however, Jesus must first cleanse the Temple before teaching in it. For the Temple to become again a “house of prayer” those engaged in “buying and selling” must first be cast out. So it is with the temples of our own hearts and souls. At our core we are, first and foremost, “a dwelling place for God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). Yet in our consciousness we are beset with all the trials and tribulations, the ambitions and manipulations, the jealousies and resentments of the life of “buying and selling.” Despite the fact that it is for the life and teaching of Jesus that we are made, that teaching has trouble penetrating our souls and reforming our hearts because of the clamor of the life of “buying and selling.”
It is human nature that even the spaces like the Temple, which we create exclusively to remind us of the sovereignty of God, in time get polluted by our own demand for gratification, power, and wealth. If they are to be restored to their true purpose in life, all that is human must be continually cleansed and purged. So too the temple of our own bodies and souls. To receive the teaching, that is the love, that Jesus brings we must quiet that in us that is obsessed with “buying and selling.”
Sigmund Freud spoke of the two basic components of human life as love and work. So often for us, because we must make our living by the sweat of our brows, we experience a great distance between these two central aspects of our lives. Our love is seem as personal and emotional; our work is the contract we make with the wider world in which we sell a task we can perform to someone who profits by buying it from us. In the modern and post-modern world of capitalism and consumerism we take this bifurcated view of our life for granted.
Yet, most of us also have moments of a profound connection between our life and our work. On such occasions, we experience the depth and fulfillment of our being in the midst of acting (working) for and on behalf of others. At such moments we know ourselves as an instrument of love in and for the world. We know ourselves as unique participants in the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ, and we experience our work as the fullest expression of love in us.
When the religious leaders persecute Jesus for healing the blind man on the Sabbath, Jesus says to them: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5: 17) For Jesus, his work is not something to be bought and sold. It is rather the carrying out of the mission he has been given by his Father. It is the reason for which he has come into the world and the active expression of his life-call.
As “a house of prayer” the temple is the place where we come to know who we are and what we are for. It is the place where the work that is given for us to do (John 17:4) is made known to us, and where we discover and experience the way to carry it out. The great spiritual traditions make clear, however, that the true temple is not a human structure but the Divine life at the ground of our being. As long as the unconscious forces of “buying and selling’ dominate our sense of ourselves, we shall not be able to hear and receive the Lord’s teaching to us. As we learn to re-direct our life and our consciousness from the dissipating demands of our unconscious to the stillness of the primordial silence in which we truly live, we shall realize the fullness and joy there is for us in carrying out the work, the mission, we most deeply are.
The other day I I had turned out a flock of sheep into a new pasture and a neighbor stopped, as he was driving by, looking at me standing watching them move into their new surroundings. He said, “You can see you really like the job.” There is no need to have this point made explicitly in the media all the time. But it is of the essence of true farming now and I believe always has been. If you farm in such a way that these moments are replaced by gross comparisons of how many cows you have now and how few so many years ago, and how much money you are making now in comparison with what you were making then—give farming up. Apart from what such an outlook is doing to yourself—this perpetual marathon-testing—farming will never give satisfaction. Farming isn’t a maximum money-maker in industrial society and never will be, because modern people will not pay as much money for food to put in their mouths as opposed to things they find more interesting than eating, or more self-satisfying in impressive social ways. In a way they are quite right. But someone has to produce the food that is elementarily necessary. Intrinsic to the production of food there is an impersonal joy.
David Grene, On Farming and Classics: A Memoir, p. 133