January 9, 2017 • Life for Leaders
And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
In last Thursday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began reflecting on Jesus’s so-called “cleansing” of the Temple in Mark 11. I noted how Jesus explained his unexpected and unwelcome behavior by quoting two Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah. From Jeremiah, Jesus borrowed the description of the Temple as a “den of robbers” (see Jer 7:11).
In the day of Jeremiah, the Temple had become like a den of robbers in that the people felt they could hide, safely protected from divine judgment, because they had access to the Temple, the place where God himself was said to dwell. They thought they could “steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods” because, after committing all of these gross sins, they could escape to the sanctuary of the Temple (Jer 7:9). But, through Jeremiah, God delivered the bad news that the Temple was not just a hideout, a safe haven for the Jewish people. They would soon be judged for their sin and the Temple would be destroyed.
As I read Jeremiah 7 and Mark 11, I wonder if I sometimes hide in a “den of robbers.” Because I have a relationship with God through faith in Christ, do I let myself off the hook when it comes to living rightly? Do I neglect the call to do justice because of my faith in Jesus? Do I ignore the needs of others because I am safe in God?
True faith in God through Jesus Christ does not hide from the world and its needs. It does not bless or even excuse unrighteousness and injustice, though it does offer forgiveness and hope for a peace-filled world. Rather, authentic Christian faith will be expressed in good works that God has prepared for us (see Eph 2:8-10). We will seek, by God’s power, to flee from sin and to live in God’s presence so that we might serve him in every arena of life, including our work. Our faith should never become a den of thieves, but rather “house of prayer” for all people, so that others might be drawn to God through us.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Are you ever tempted to let your faith become like a den of thieves? When? How?
What helps your faith to motivate you to right living rather than to shield you from God’s desires for your life?
Gracious God, I know that sometimes I let my faith in you serve as a “den of robbers.” Since I am confident in your love and forgiveness, I can easily do that which dishonors you. Perhaps even more often I can fail to do that which you have asked of me. Forgive me, Lord.
May my confidence in your grace never give me an excuse to sin. Rather, may your grace stir up in me a hatred of all that offends you. And may your Spirit help me to turn from sin even as I turn to you.
Help me, Lord, to let my relationship with you be an impetus for righteousness. Give me eyes to see the needs of people around me, indeed, of people throughout the world. May I open my heart to those in need or in prison, to those who are hungry or lost. By your Spirit, move me to reach out to them with your love and justice.
Though you are indeed my hiding place, Lord, may my faith in you never become my den of robbers. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Injustice, Greed, the Common Good and Integrity (Jeremiah 5-8)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.