“Freely you received, freely you give”
In Matthew 21 we find Jesus entering Jerusalem, with the crowds shouting “Hosanna” to him. Then he went to the temple and verses 12 to 13 tell us what he did there:
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you make it a den of robbers."
Western Christianity has created this image of the blond, blue eyes, sweet face looking Jesus that was there to please everybody. I wonder how the above passage fits to this image. The place of the above record was the outer side of the temple, the so called court of the Gentiles. Much trading was going on there. People were buying and selling, all in the name of worshipping God: they changed money for those who were coming from afar; they were selling pigeons for those who needed to offer them as sacrifice. I have also heard that sometimes what was happening is that the people were carrying their animal for the sacrifice but the priest would turn it down, with the excuse that it was not spotless and send them to the traders to get another one, getting a commission from them. I don’t know whether this is true or not but I’m pretty sure that there were some priests that would do this, given the fallen nature of man and his propensity to sin. Of course what the traders were doing was not a charity business. They were doing it with profit and for profit! The last sentence in the above passage i.e. that they had made the place a den of robbers indicate that not only they were doing it with profit but their practices approached those of robbers. There is something not fitting when the things of God are connected to gain, profit, buying and selling for profit. I don’t want to point figures at any minister, author, artist or company. Every one of us including myself will give account for his doings to God, not to me. It is however a fact that the 2 chief Christian and Bible publishing companies in the United States (and perhaps in the world) are owned by secular owners, being part of the same group that owns the Wall Street Journal and many similar publications / newspapers. This is a fact not a rumor. Purpose of the owning group is to make profits and as big profits as possible for the benefit of its shareholders. This of course cannot be an acceptable target of any Christian ministry or organization involved in things that pertain to God. Ministry and making big profits have nothing in common! Furthermore, how would Jesus really feel seeing the practices of many “ministries” today: “buy 5 books get 1 for free. Here I have the truth of the Word. Only 10 $ today. The hardbound is 50% down. Don’t lose it!!” If what they really have is teaching that God has inspired – and many times indeed it is - why should it be sold? Why, in the age where everything can be made available for free on the internet, not also been made available online for everybody to see? Selling things that supposedly God has inspired (teachings, music etc.) is not something that is found in the Bible. Jesus very clearly said to the disciples when he sent them to minister to people:
“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.”
God does not request a payment for what He provides to us. It was a gift, given to you for free and you are NOT allowed to provide it on profit! Are you gifted by God to sing for him, to write for him, to minister in any way to Him (and every Christian is gifted for this)? As you received free of charge you should also give free of charge. I know that many times you have to sell it (books, CDs etc. do bear printing/shipping costs etc. and many times the publisher and not the author defines the price). If this is so, then make it also available for free, online, for the world to see, giving also any royalties away. Freely you received, freely also give! The price tag for the gospels indeed reads: “for free… not for profit!”