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What I believe you’re asking is how to get these blog posts by email. When you’re looking at any post or page from the blog, there should be a link at the bottom right that says “Follow.” If you click on that link, you’ll be given the chance to provide an email address. WordPress will send you an email at the address you provide asking you to confirm that you wish to subscribe to this blog. If you confirm, from then on you’ll get each post by email. I hope that’s helpful, and thanks for your interest.

What is a wounded spirit?

Q. My question is about the proverb, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” What is a wounded spirit? I cannot find any other reference in Scripture to a “wounded spirit,” but it seems as though it would be important. Generally, the word “wounded” means an injury coming from a source outside the self. I have read commentaries that claim this wound comes from God—which, if true, is a wound to my own spirit. I need enlightenment and hope you can help. Thank you.

Given your concerns, I think it’s important to clarify right up front that this proverb isn’t saying anything about God. It’s an observation about the human condition. It’s saying in essence that emotional suffering is much harder to endure than physical suffering.

The proverb actually gives the reason for that. When we’re sick—the most likely meaning of “infirmity” here—our “spirit” allows us to “manage.” (That’s how I’d translate the term that the King James Version renders as “sustain.” The same term is used in Psalm 112 to describe those who “manage their affairs with justice.”) That is, if we have hope, courage, and determination, we can make it through an illness with grace and dignity. But if our spirit, the very faculty we depend on to make it through tough times, is damaged itself, this proverb asks, how will we ever manage?

The word translated “wounded” in the KJV refers to the condition a person is in after being struck or beaten. Other translations render it as “broken” or “crushed.” But since it’s referring to something that happens to our “spirit,” it should be taken figuratively rather than literally. It’s describing how the events of life can come along and “beat us down,” and then we are so discouraged and despairing that we feel as if we just can’t make it.

And so I think we do well to ponder the question this proverb poses: How will we ever manage? The implied answer seems to be that we need others to come alongside us and strengthen us from the outside, because we can no longer do that for ourselves from the inside. And while there’s a clear mandate throughout Scripture for us as people to help our fellow humans in this way, and to expect and accept their help ourselves, the Bible also portrays God as actively helping those who are in this situation.

I’m not sure, either, if there’s another reference to a “broken spirit” in the Bible, but there certainly are other expressions that seem synonymous. Psalm 147, for example, says that the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The word translated “broken” here means “shattered,” and “heart” is roughly a synonym for “spirit.” So the Lord does not wound our spirits or break our hearts; just the opposite. He heals them.

Significantly, the “servant of the Lord” figure in Isaiah says that the Lord has anointed him, among other things, to “bind up the brokenhearted” and “comfort all who mourn.” Jesus applied this Scripture directly to himself at the beginning of his ministry when he read from the scroll of Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue. (The selection he’s portrayed as reading doesn’t specifically include the parts about binding up the brokenhearted and comforting those who mourn, but it was characteristic of the time to cite part of a passage as a way of referring to it all.)

So the mission of Jesus is intrinsically involved in ministering to a wounded spirit or broken heart. In his own teaching, Jesus promised that those who mourned would be comforted. He also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The proverb we’re discussing asks who can “bear” a wounded spirit; the image is of something too hard to carry. So the idea of Jesus wanting to lighten the load of those who are “heavy laden” applies directly.

About the only place from which I can imagine someone might get the idea that God would wound the human spirit is the passage in Isaiah that says of the servant of the Lord, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” The term translated “smitten” here is basically the same root, with a variant spelling, as the one translated “wounded” in the proverb. But the whole point of the passage in Isaiah is that we were wrong to think that the servant was wounded by God. Particularly from a New Testament perspective, we can see that instead God was in Christ, enduring this suffering on our behalf—not inflicting it on us.

 

Can Christians today eat food that was forbidden in the Old Testament?

Q. I read in Isaiah how angry God was at his people for eating unclean flesh that he had not meant to be food. My question is, in today’s world as a Christian, is it sinful to eat unclean flesh ? I’ve been a Christian 35 or 40 years, most everyone at church eats whatever they want, standing alone is difficult. I don’t want God angry at me! I understand the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus, but in Romans it asks, “Should we sin that grace may abound?”

Thank you for your question. I hope this earlier post will help answer it:

Did Jesus not declare all foods clean?

Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? (Part 3)

Q. Is it honoring to God for Christians who are Gentiles to keep the Sabbath? If so, how should they observe it? Or it is not required of them to observe the law in any shape or form? I had never observed the Sabbath or other laws on the understanding that as Christians, we weren’t required to do so. But a few years ago, when I was worn down from overwork, I prayed about the issue and I felt led to observe the Sabbath. (Not that I thought it would make me more righteous, or that I was trying to be.) But now that I have largely recovered from being worn down, I’d like to be able to do some of my academic research work on that day, or simple things like cooking, which I haven’t been doing. Would that be all right?

In my first post in response to this question, I described generally how the obligations of the Old Covenant, such as keeping the Sabbath, become opportunities under the New Covenant. In my next post, I talked about the reasons for the Sabbath: rest for weary bodies; worship of our Creator; and becoming part of God’s own work, which flows from His “rest.” In this post, I’d like to conclude this series by offering some suggestions for how you might keep the Sabbath practically.

The first important question is whether to keep the Sabbath as one particular day during the week or instead try to fulfill the purposes of the Sabbath on each day of the week. This will be a matter of individual guidance and conviction for each believer, but allow me to make a suggestion that may prove helpful. It seems to me that if your “work” is usually done at a particular place (for example, an office, a factory, or a shop), it’s prudent to make sure you get away from that place and get a good, solid break for at least one day every week. (Nothing wrong with a whole weekend, either.) But if your work can be done, and is done, in a variety of settings because it depends primarily on your inspiration, insights, and creativity (this would apply, for example, to writers, artists, researchers, composers, inventors, strategists, etc.), then you might repeatedly be frustrated if you tried to keep your work out of a specific day of the week. Chances are that the break you gave yourself from the usual routine would release your creative processes and you’d be flooded with ideas that you weren’t supposed to pursue that day! So think about what kind of work you do and whether it would lend itself best to “honoring one day as more sacred than others” or “honoring all days alike.”

A related question is the definition of “work.” Assuming that, for the most part, we are supposed to rest rather than work on the Sabbath, how can we know when we’re working and when we’re at rest? As I said in my second post, in general, anything that interferes with the purposes of the Sabbath should be recognized as “work,” while anything that promotes those purposes should be considered “rest.”

The Gospel of Luke reports how Jesus healed a woman who’d been disabled for eighteen years, unable to stand up straight. “He put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” But the synagogue leader criticized him for doing this on the Sabbath. Jesus responded, “Should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” This was one of the many times when Jesus offered an “argument from the lesser to the greater”: If it was appropriate for people to be granted rest from fatigue on the Sabbath, how much more appropriate was it for this woman to be granted freedom from her disability on the Sabbath! Or as Jesus put it on another occasion, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, when he healed a man’s withered hand, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.

Alexander Master, “Jesus Heals the Crippled Woman” (detail)

So, to use your specific example of cooking, if cooking is more for you than just getting meals on the table—if it’s a creative outlet and a source of joy and refreshment for you—then by all means, go ahead and cook, even on a day you might have set apart from “work.” It’s lawful to “do good” on that day. In the same way, if your research isn’t just a job, if it’s a way for you to use your talents to pursue something that you’re passionate about, then don’t feel that you have to shut it down for a whole day once a week—particularly not if some of your best insights occur to you on that day! But you’re on the honor system here. You’ll know in your own conscience whether you’re “pushing” to keep going when you should really be resting.

One other observation to make is that in the Old Testament, there wasn’t just a weekly Sabbath. There were also several week-long annual festivals that began and ended with days free from work. (And we can safely assume that in many cases, the entire festival was different from the usual work week; for example, during the Festival of Tabernacles, the Israelites lived in temporary shelters—kind of like going camping!) God also commanded the Israelites to give their farmland a sabbatical year every seven years. And beyond that, they were to observe a Year of Jubilee every fifty years, when all debts were cancelled and everyone returned to their ancestral property. This had the effect of freeing the rising generation from any bad financial legacy the older generation may have left, and at the same time it required each generation to make its own way in the world.

So let me leave you with this question and challenge: How will you observe the Sabbath over longer time periods? Will you make sure you get vacations every year and that they are genuine times of refreshment, restoration, and adventure? I trust that, as an academic, you’ve already had sabbatical experiences every several years that have permitted breakthroughs in your research and at the same time enabled you to step out of your regular life in a significant way so that you could return to it as a fresh person. And have you experienced a “Jubilee”? Around age 50, many people move from a traditionally defined position into a more creatively designed one that suits them personally and will allow them to use their gifts with maximum effectiveness for the rest of their careers. (This can happen within an institution they have been serving, or it may take them out of that institution into a consultancy, freelance, or similar role.)

There seems to be a biblical precedent for this type of move. God told Moses that Levites who were “twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.” So the more senior Levites became advisors and assistants who were not to keep doing the regular work themselves. Sounds to me as if they were then observing the Sabbath for the rest of their lives.

However, it may not not be practical or possible in many situations for our outward work to be transformed in this way. Nevertheless, we can all be transformed inwardly so that we are no longer restlessly striving for the rewards of work. Instead, may our work flow from who we are and who we are becoming, by the grace of God, so that we may truly “enter His rest” and, as God’s co-workers, cease from our labors as He ceased from His on that first Sabbath day.

Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? (Part 2)

Q. Is it honoring to God for Christians who are Gentiles to keep the Sabbath? If so, how should they observe it? Or it is not required of them to observe the law in any shape or form? I had never observed the Sabbath or other laws on the understanding that as Christians, we weren’t required to do so. But a few years ago, when I was worn down from overwork, I prayed about the issue and I felt led to observe the Sabbath. (Not that I thought it would make me more righteous, or that I was trying to be.) But now that I have largely recovered from being worn down, I’d like to be able to do some of my academic research work on that day, or simple things like cooking, which I haven’t been doing. Would that be all right?

Based on what I wrote in response to your question in my last post, in which I explained how the obligations of the Old Covenant become opportunities under the New Covenant, you won’t be surprised to learn that I do encourage Christians to continue observing the Sabbath, as a spiritual discipline and as an opportunity to do good. So the answer to the first part of your question is yes, it is honoring to God when we keep the Sabbath in those ways. And this brings me to the second part of your question: How should we observe it?

The New Testament suggests that there are different ways a person can fulfill the purposes behind the Sabbath. One way is indeed to refrain from work on a given day of the week. The definition of “work” is very much up to the individual under the New Covenant; as with giving, it’s a matter of what you “determine in your heart.” But I’d say generally that any activity that interferes with the purposes of the Sabbath is likely “work” and should be left aside during Sabbath time. (I’ll say more shortly about what those purposes are.)

Some people choose to do no work on Saturday, the seventh day, the day God “rested” after creation and the day that was observed under the Old Covenant. Others choose Sunday, the first day, the day of Christ’s resurrection, symbolic of our entrance into new life. Both choices have good theological foundations and are time-honored practices in the community of Jesus’ followers.

However, in his letter to the Romans, Paul says that the Sabbath can also be kept as an everyday practice. When discussing two issues about which believers in his day had different convictions, Sabbath observance and eating meat that had been offered to idols, he wrote, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” We can infer from this overall argument that Paul would also say that “whoever considers every day alike does so to the Lord.” So it’s also possible for a person to keep the Sabbath by looking for opportunities every day to fulfill its purposes.

And what are those purposes? One primary reason for the Sabbath is to allow weary bodies to rest and recover. The Law of Moses said, “The seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.” God designed for all creatures, human and animal, to have regular opportunities for their finite bodies to recover from the exertions of life.

No one who had power over another person or animal was to deny them this necessary refreshment: “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” It’s crucial to emphasize, in our overworked culture, that this also means we must not deny our own bodies the opportunity to rest. I’m glad that you recognized this in your own case and that you have pursued this purpose of the Sabbath to the point where you feel largely recovered.

But there are other purposes for the Sabbath as well. As an admission of our creaturely finiteness, it is also supposed to be an act of humility and worship, in acknowledgment of God’s infinite greatness. And so it’s appropriate that communities of believers that observe a given day as the Sabbath also tend to hold worship services on that same day. One inference is that anyone who keeps the Sabbath as an everyday spiritual discipline should look for opportunities each day to express humble and grateful worship.

The book of Hebrews, however, suggests another very intriguing purpose of the Sabbath. Its author writes, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for all who enter God’s rest also cease from their works, just as God did from his.” This means, for one thing, that we cease from trying to be righteous before God through our works and instead rely in faith on what Jesus has done for us. In light of this, it’s certainly appropriate that you haven’t been keeping the Sabbath itself to try to become more righteous before God.

But there’s a lot more going on here. The Gospel of John relates how, one Sabbath day, Jesus healed a man who couldn’t walk. When the Jewish leaders criticized him for doing this, he replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” In my study guide to John, I explain what Jesus meant by this:

The Jews of his day already accepted that God had to be at work sometimes on the Sabbath. They believed, for example, that God actively sent rain, and it often rained on the Sabbath. But human work was forbidden. Jesus explained, however, that the work he was doing was not his own, but the Father’s: “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” This is actually a good description of Jesus’ “glory”: his intimate relationship with the Father and his sensitivity to the work that the Father wanted to do through him at any given moment. The point is that followers of Jesus can have this same kind of relationship with the Father and be actively involved in God’s own work on every single day of the week.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, “Christ healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda” (1667-70), The National Gallery, London

In other words, if the Sabbath is a time when we refrain from our own work, that only means that it’s the ideal time for us to take our part in God’s work, which He is always doing. This is the idea of “co-operation” that’s a leading theme of the Gospel of John: God operates and we operate with Him, discerning where and how He is acting and joining in. This understanding of the Sabbath clearly calls for us to approach it as a sacred time that’s not limited to one day of the week, even though we may still “consider one day more sacred than another” as we seek to fulfill other Sabbath purposes.

But there’s a paradox here, which the author of Hebrews notes: We are called to join with God in his work, “and yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.” After all, Scripture says, “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” Jewish interpreters were fascinated to note that while Scripture marks the ending of the first six days of creation with a repeated formula about mornings and evenings, no ending is specified for the seventh day. So God’s “rest” has continued from then until the present. In effect, it’s still the seventh day of creation, and God is still resting. So how can He be working?

The solution to this paradox is offered in the specific instructions for the Sabbath in the book of Exodus, which say, “For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”

In what way could an infinitely powerful God be refreshed, if by definition He could never get tired in the first place? Many interpreters consider the “refreshment” of God to be, in effect, the “aaah” feeling He got when He surveyed “all that He had made” and saw that it was “very good.” While God first got this overview at the end of the sixth day, He devoted the entire next day to contemplating and admiring the beauty of the entire finished creation.

And apparently that day extends right down to the present. This means that God’s “work” flows from his unending seventh-day “rest,” that is, from his view of the finished creation as very good. This means that God has never acted out of desperation to try frantically to fix something that has apparently gone wrong with the world He made. I’ve discussed in other posts on this blog how God built freedom into the creation, and with it the possibility that people might choose things that were contrary to His  purposes. But God has known from the start that this is something He can accommodate within His original plans, as He takes an active part to bring the creation to its intended fulfillment. (As I write in another post, for example, “God is able to work through the free choices, both good and bad, of moral agents to accomplish His purposes.”)

So God’s actions flow from his Sabbath rest, his confident assurance, informed by his survey of the finished creation, that all of His purposes will be accomplished and that the beautiful world of creatures He made will ultimately fulfill its intended purpose. We are to lay aside our own work and join in His work with that same confident assurance, in our case based on faith in Him, informed by our understanding of His works from creation down to the present. This is what it means, in the deepest sense, to keep the Sabbath.

But I would like, in my final post in this series, to offer some specific suggestions for how you can work a Sabbath observance into your life that will fulfill all of its purposes, from this most lofty one to the practical necessity of bodily rest.

Are Christians required to keep the Sabbath? (Part 1)

Q. Is it honoring to God for Christians who are Gentiles to keep the Sabbath? If so, how should they observe it? Or it is not required of them to observe the law in any shape or form? I had never observed the Sabbath or other laws on the understanding that as Christians, we weren’t required to do so. But a few years ago, when I was worn down from overwork, I prayed about the issue and I felt led to observe the Sabbath. (Not that I thought it would make me more righteous, or that I was trying to be.) But now that I have largely recovered from being worn down, I’d like to be able to do some of my academic research work on that day, or simple things like cooking, which I haven’t been doing. Would that be all right?

My answer your question will have three parts. In this post, I’ll talk about the general difference between the obligations of the Old Covenant and the opportunities of the New Covenant. In my next post, I’ll apply those biblical and theological observations specifically to Sabbath observance. And in my final post, I’ll offer some practical suggestions in response to your concerns.

I was reading just the other day in 2 Chronicles about how Abijah, the king of Judah, warned Jereboam, the king of Israel, that he shouldn’t try to attack him, because God wouldn’t be with him. Abijah said:

“You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods. But didn’t you drive out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods. As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God.”

On this basis, Abijah argued, Jereboam couldn’t hope to defeat Judah—and he was right. Jereboam lost the battle. But I was struck by the way that faithfulness to the Lord was defined at this time as scrupulously following the specific commandments God had given, not just for who could be priests, but even for how the bread should be set out on the table in the temple.

An artist’s rendition of the showbread on the golden table in the temple.

Now it wasn’t thought that these observances, in and of themselves, would have some specific effect. Rather, following God’s commandments accurately and carefully was an expression of the people’s loyalty, obedience, and devotion. God was their Lord and Master, and it was their duty as faithful servants to carry out his wishes to the letter. But it was their devotion that really mattered, not the specific arrangements.

We get evidence of this distinction later in 2 Chronicles itself. The book records how, during the reign of Hezekiah, the king and the people realized that they needed to start celebrating Passover once again in order to be faithful to the Lord’s instructions. They were supposed to have done this in the first month of the year, but by the time they realized this, it was too late for them to organize a celebration in that month. So they decided to celebrate Passover in the second month instead. This was not following God’s commandments to the letter, but “the plan seemed right both to the king and to the whole assembly.” It’s better for a person to have a heart that seeks to obey, even if they can’t do so exactly, than for a person not to try to obey at all.

And once the celebration got going, “although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, ‘May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.'” And the Lord accepted Hezekiah’s prayer.

So even within the Old Covenant itself, there’s a movement from an emphasis on a scrupulous observance of specific commandments to an emphasis on a person’s heart genuinely seeking God. Jesus took that developing emphasis and made it explicit in his teaching. In terms of the food laws, for example, he said that it wasn’t what went into a person (what they ate) that made them unclean, but what came out of them, because “from the inside, from your heart, come the evil ideas that lead you to do immoral things.” To give another example, the Law of Moses was very specific that the people of the Old Covenant were to worship the Lord in only one place, Jerusalem. But when a Samaritan woman asked Jesus whether she should worship in Jerusalem or on the mountain where her ancestors had always worshiped, he replied, “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” So once again it’s the devotion of the heart, not the letter of the law, that matters.

In this light, the obligations of the Old Covenant are transformed into opportunities under the New Covenant. Tithing provides a good example of this. Under the Old Covenant, the people were required to give a tithe (that is, 10%) of their crops and other income to the Lord. But the New Testament never speaks of tithing as a requirement. Rather, it says things such as, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (Another way to put this is, “Don’t give if you wish you could keep it; don’t give if you feel you have to. God loves those who give because they want to give.”)

So the emphasis in giving is on the desire of the heart to honor and obey God. This doesn’t mean, however, that Christians shouldn’t tithe. Tithing is actually a very good spiritual discipline for us to adopt. A spiritual discipline is a structure that we build into our lives to make sure that we actually do what we want to do in our hearts. So by keeping track of our giving, and making sure that it’s at least 10% (after all, those who give because they want to can reasonably be expected to give at least as much as those who give because it’s a requirement), we structure our lives in such a way that our good intentions are actually fulfilled.

When we do carry out the desire of our heart to express our devotion to God in tangible ways, then we take advantage of an opportunity to do good. In the conclusion to the passage about the “cheerful giver,” Paul explains, “This service that you perform [i.e., your giving] is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people, it is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”

Perhaps you can already see the implications of all this for Sabbath observance, but I’ll talk about those in my next post.

Was Jesus angry when he turned the tables of the money changers at his Father’s house?

Q. Was Jesus angry when he turned the tables of the money changers at his Father’s house?

Rembrandt, “Christ driving the money-changers from the Temple,” 1626

I believe that Jesus was angry—very angry—at the money changers and merchants for turning his Father’s house into a “den of robbers.” That’s why he drove them out of the Temple—according to John, by making and using a whip of cords! John also records that when Jesus’ disciples saw what he was doing, they thought of the Scripture that says, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” “Consumed by zeal” is another way of saying “angry.”

But I don’t believe that Jesus was in an uncontrollable rage. That would have been a sin, and Jesus did not sin.

The Bible says, “Be angry, but do not sin.” This helps us recognize that anger is simply an emotion; it’s what we do with our anger that makes it either sinful or not sinful.

Anger can actually be a positive and constructive force. Because it’s an emotion that fills us with energy, anger can be a great motivator. We can “get good and mad at ourselves” and find the motivation to succeed at something that has defeated us so far or complete a project we’re tired of seeing half-finished. Anger can also motivate us to establish proper boundaries in our lives and to confront injustice. I think that’s what was going on in Jesus’ case: The money changers and merchants were exploiting poor people who wanted to come into the house of God to worship, and Jesus got mad enough to take action against them. (I don’t think he explained to them quietly and gently, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers”!)

But we have to be careful, because anger can also be a very destructive force. If we don’t control it (if we “lose our temper”), all that energy can be released in the verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse of others. This is something that the Bible warns against strongly and repeatedly. James warns, for example, that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (meaning out-of-control anger). One of the many proverbs on the subject says that “fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Psalm 39 says, “Let go of anger and leave rage behind! Don’t get upset—it will only lead to evil.” And so forth.

Followers of Jesus look to him as their example, and I think that in the case of driving the money changers and the merchants out of the temple, Jesus sets us a good example to follow of being angry but not sinning. Let’s get mad enough about the things that are wrong in our world to do something about them, but let’s not give in to rage and become destructive ourselves.