Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. – Matthew 21:12
We read in the Gospel how Holy Week began with Jesus entering the temple and driving out all those that bought and sold. He then rebuked the vendors of doves: “Get these things out of here!” He was so crystal clear in his command that it was as if he said, “I have a right to this temple and I alone will be in it and have control of it.”
What does this have to say to us? The temple God wants to be master of is the human soul, which he created and fashioned just like himself. We read that God said, “Let us make man in our own image.” And he did it. He made each soul so much like himself that nothing else in heaven or on earth resembles him as much. That is why God wants the temple to be pure, so pure that nothing should dwell there except he himself. And that is the reason why he is so pleased when we really prepare our souls for him. When we do this, when he alone dwells in our hearts, he takes great comfort.
But who, exactly, are the people who buy and sell? Are they not precisely the good people? See! The merchants are those who only guard against mortal sins. They strive to be good people who do their good deeds to the glory of God, such as fasting, watching, praying and the like – all of which are good – and yet do these things so that God will give them something in exchange. Their efforts are contingent upon God doing something they ardently want to have done.
They are all merchants. They want to exchange one thing for another and to trade with our Lord. But they will be cheated out of their bargain – for what they have or have attained is actually given to them by God. Lest we forget, we do what we do only by the help of God, and so God is never obligated to us. God gives us nothing and does nothing except out of his own free will. What we are we are because of God, and whatever we have we receive from God and not by our own contriving.
Therefore God is not in the least obligated to us – neither for our deeds nor for our gifts. He gives to us freely. Besides, Christ himself says, “Without me, you can do nothing.”
People are very foolish when they want to trade with God. They know little or nothing of the truth. And God will strike them and drive them out of the temple. Light and darkness cannot exist side by side. God himself is the truth. When he enters the temple, he drives out ignorance and darkness and reveals himself in light and truth. Then, when the truth is known, merchants must depart – for truth wants no merchandising!
God does not seek his own benefit. In everything he acts only out of love. Thus, the person who is united with God lives the same way – he is innocent and free. He lives for love without asking why, and solely for the glory of God, never seeking his own advantage. God alone is at work in him.
As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like the merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God. Live as if you did not exist. Expect and ask nothing in return. Then the merchant inside you will be driven out of the temple God has made. Then God alone dwells there. See! This is how the temple is cleared: when a person thinks only of God and honors him alone. Only such a person is free and genuine.
Jesus went into the temple and drove out those that bought and sold. His message was bold: “Take this all away!” But observe that when all was cleared, there was nobody left but Jesus. And when he is alone he is able to speak in the temple of the soul. Observe this also, for it is certain. If anyone else is speaking in the temple of the soul, Jesus keeps still, as if he were not at home. And he is not at home wherever there are strange guests – guests with whom the soul holds conversation, guests who always seek to bargain. If Jesus is to speak and be heard the soul must be alone and quiet.
And what does Jesus say when the soul has been cleared? His word is a revelation of himself and everything the Father has said to him. He reveals the Father’s majesty with unmeasured power. If in your spirit you discover this power, you will possess a like power in whatever you do – a power that will enable you to live undividedly and pure. Neither joy nor sorrow, no, nor any created thing will be able to disrupt your soul. For Christ will remain and he will cast aside all that is insignificant and futile.
When Jesus is united with your soul, the soul’s tide moves back again into its own, out of itself and above all things, with grace and power back to its prime origin. Then your fallen, fleshly self will become obedient to your inner, spiritual self, and you will in turn have a lasting peace in serving God without condition or demand.
From Bread and Wine.