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  • William T. Howe Ph.D.

March 10, 2022

The Year of our Lord, Jesus Christ

John 2:16

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.

You’ve heard the story; Jesus made a scourge of small cords and drove out the money changers from the temple. Why? What caused Him to be so disturbed? How were they making His Father’s house a place of merchandise? The answer is found in John 2:14. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

So, is it wrong to sell things at church? Books, music recordings, Bibles, and such? Nowhere is this forbidden, however, no doubt, this can get out of hand. Church is not a marketplace to sell anything. Yet resources to help, enable, and strengthen those in the faith need to be made available for those who want them. To this preacher it is a matter of degree and substance. Substance in that we are not to sell items with which to purchase forgiveness of sins, (such as sell the gospel, or sell salvation). The oxen, sheep and doves were sold as a necessary item for sacrifice. Our sacrifice was given for all mankind freely by Jesus. How can we make money on His message of salvation? Would any preacher of any kind say, “If you give me $100 I’ll tell you how to obtain eternal life?” Doubtful, even among those most prone to self-promotion.

As far as degree goes, this is what is meant. Is the biggest thing in a church service, or in a church building the selling of Christian living products? How much time is spent from the pulpit promoting such items? Do individuals feel that every time they attend that church that there is an effort to sell them something? Is the church a big marketplace? It’s not supposed to be. It is to be first and foremost a place of prayer and instruction in the Word of God through preaching and teaching. It is to be a place of worship and of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. But if a visiting preacher or singing group offers their books or CD’s from time to time, what’s wrong with that? Where else should they sell their items?

Years ago, our church was continuously contacted by some para-church organization to buy their teaching series of videos. I guess during Sunday School you just put those tapes in a player and let the “expert” teach the class on video. One time I answered the phone when the representative called to pitch a new series of tapes. I told the person that we didn’t use resources like that in our church. The sales person proceeded to insist that their teachers were expert and effective in delivering timely and pertinent lessons on various topics. To me, they were attempting to make our church a place of merchandise and I quickly ended the conversation.

We don’t sell the Gospel, and we don’t buy messages for money. These are free at our church, and I almost guarantee they are free at your church too.

Until next time,

William T. Howe, Ph.D.

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