Question:

I wanted to have a bake sale at our church to raise money for my pastor's anniversary. One of the deacons told me that I was wrong for this. I was told about how Jesus got angry at the people for using the temple for a den of thieves. I do not see that what I wanted to do is being the same thing. Help me to understand.

Answer:

"So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.'" And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching" (Mark 11:15-18).

"Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"" (John 2:13-16).

Under the Old Law, people were required to bring their tithes and their sacrifices to the Temple. Yet for many the journey was long and it was impractical to bring animals that distance. For these cases, the Law of Moses allowed people to sell their sacrifice in their location, take the money to Jerusalem, and there purchase what they needed. "And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the LORD your God has blessed you, then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household" (Deuteronomy 14:23-26).

In addition, some payments were required that was measured against a Temple standard. As an example, "If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the LORD, then he shall bring to the LORD as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering" (Leviticus 5:15). By Jesus' day, the Jews decided that all payments had to be done in temple coins and not the coins of the loathsome Gentile nations. This meant that any bringing monetary funds from a distant country to be given at the Temple had to find a money changer to convert their foreign coins into Temple coins.

As you can imagine, this led to people setting up businesses to profit from these requirements. By Jesus' day, the priests allowed such transactions to take place in the outer court of the Temple, known as the Court of the Gentiles. It is likely that those businesses paid rent to be located in such a prime position.

What Jesus strongly objected to was that such business transactions changed the purpose of the Temple. It was supposed to be a place of prayer; instead, it became a place where people made money off the need of others.

You could argue that what you are doing is not to raise money for yourself, but for someone else. Still, we must be careful as to how it looks to others. When Paul had money gathered and sent to Jerusalem, he asked that local congregations pick men to carry the money. It is not that Paul wasn't trustworthy. It was the matter of appearance of propriety: "avoiding this: that anyone should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us -- providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (II Corinthians 8:20-21). The deacon's concern is legitimate. By holding a sale at the church building, it gives the appearance that it is church sanctioned and that money is being raised in a way not authorized in the Scriptures.

You see, churches are only allowed to raise funds by voluntary contributions. "On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come" (I Corinthians 16:2). "So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:7). To give the appearance that the church is going beyond what God has authorized would give the congregation a bad appearance.

I'm glad you are thinking about others, but perhaps you and your friends can put on your thinking caps and find another way that doesn't use church property.