We often know one verse of Scripture. But, I’ve found over the years, it’s the next verse we don’t remember so much. And, it’s often that verse after the verse we remember which holds the nugget of wisdom and truth. For example, we often recall that Jesus overturned the tables in the table. We heard and mentioned that story a thousand times. But do we remember the next verse? As dads, we must be diligent to know that next verse. We must teach our kids the whole story of Scripture.
He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” —Mark 11:17
If you get over-the-top angry once in a while, then you are probably a big fan of Mark 11:15–19 and all the other gospel references depicting Jesus getting loud, overturning tables, and even wielding a whip against the money changers in the temple.
When you stomp around, get loud, put your fist through walls, and fire off rage-filled tweets, you don’t feel guilty at all. After all, you’re just doing what Jesus did. I understand the point you’re making, but let’s see if your position stands up to further scrutiny.
First, you have to admit that you don’t have the authority of Jesus, the Son of God. He was defending “my Temple.” He also had a sinless character, allowing Him to point out the sins of others aggressively without a hint of hypocrisy.
Second, Jesus had established Himself as the Prince of Peace. His primary recommendation when confronted with evil was to “turn the other cheek.” (Matt. 5:39.) In the Sermon on the Mount, He praised the merciful, the meek, and the peacemakers. The rage Jesus exhibited clearing the temple was profound and potent because it was not His typical behavior. Can you say that?
Third, Jesus knew what the response would be from the Pharisees. It’s right there in the next verse.
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
When Jesus was born, His destiny to sacrifice Himself on the cross for our sins was already written. (Actually, it had been established before the beginning of time.) But in the eyes of the world, Jesus clearing the temple was when the “teachers of religious law… began planning how to kill him.”
Jesus’s rage in the temple launched the events that would save humankind. That’s pretty important stuff. Now compare that with what happens when you rage. Does it change history? Does it even manage to change anyone’s opinion? Or does it make you look foolish on Facebook? Does it embarrass your spouse or your kids? Before raging, we would do well to consider what the outcome of our rage might be.
Let’s say you are justifiably angry about an issue that breaks God’s heart, something horrific like abortion, human trafficking, slavery, or pedophilia. If there’s a legitimate chance your action will make a difference, then get loud. Sometimes that’s the only way to make your voice heard. But also consider there may be other options. Perhaps an option with less volume, but more impact. Write a letter. Write a check. Run for office. Volunteer. Pray. Go on a short-term mission project. Invite an adversary for coffee. Lead a small group. Teach Sunday school. Go to law school. Tuck your kids in at night. Love your spouse. Adopt. Volunteer for foster care. Or here’s an idea: formulate commonsense and biblical arguments and be prepared to deliver them with poise and respect.
Another effective strategy that could be employed more frequently by people who call themselves Christians is to live a life so exemplary and honorable that nonbelievers seek your advice.
No matter what, be very sure about your motivations and the ramifications of your actions before you storm into a building and start overturning tables. Consider the mandate of 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” In other words, don’t be a Christian who brings shame to the body of Christ. Know the truth and handle it correctly.
The Bible also says, “In your anger do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). That’s an excellent warning. But it also confirms there is a kind of anger that is not sinful, perhaps even a force for good. How can we make sure we limit our anger to the righteous kind? We need to take our own human limitations out of the equation. This requires us to focus not on our own issues, but instead to ask, “What makes God angry?” In James 1:19–20, we read, “Take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Mark 11:18 ends with, “But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching” Notice, Mark is emphasizing that Jesus’s words, not His miracles, amazed the people. This may be a little surprising, but it’s good news to us mere mortals. We may not have Jesus’s instant access to miracles, but we can use the same tools He used to bring wonder. Don’t you think carefully chosen words have a better chance of being amazing when spoken with love, not yelled in anger?