studies

Matthew 12:12

And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.

Scene: Jesus approaches the Temple with his disciples, its structure massive and looming before them. This is the center of Jewish worship, holding the very presence of God. But nearby, there are vendors hawking their wares. Tables of overpriced pigeons to be used for sacrifices, and likely others peddling miscellaneous, useless goods.

And Jesus is mad. “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” he says, “but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matt 21:13) He flips their tables, which I imagine an amusing sight. Gold trinkets clattering to the stone floor, and pigeon feathers scattering everywhere as the birds escape.

It’s easy to see this and feel justified in our own angers. Jesus was clearly agitated, so it’s okay if we get angry, too, when things don’t go our way. But is our anger justified?

It’s a tricky emotion. Consider the anger’s source: is it the result of your own elevated self-worth, or situations beyond your control? Or have all these little things piled on that you don’t remember the origin, and you’re just angry at everything and everyone who tries to rationalize with you?

I’ll admit, sometimes I’m quick to anger. Frustration with friends, co-workers, or highway drivers; a lack of understanding when I’m trying to learn something; a miscommunication that spiraled into an argument. I justify my emotions, because “Jesus flipped tables,” too. As if my irrational moods can be compared to the Son of God. Thinking of that scene at the Temple, I’d be angry, too. Those peddlers are interrupting my prayer time. They’re loud and annoying, and can you please just let me pass? But that’s not Jesus’s anger. He wasn’t angry for his own sake, but because they were defacing the Temple of God. His anger was for the sake of the Father.

Therein lies the difference. My impatience is usually selfish. I’m misunderstood, or I’m inconvenienced, or a situation makes me look bad. I’m being a whiny child who isn’t getting what she wants. This sort of anger has no roots in the spiritual realm and, without God, is unjustified.

Because in the end, none of this is about me. In keeping God at the center, I may (surprise!) even feel less angry overall. More compassionate, understanding, and willing to compromise. Jesus was swarmed by people all the time, a crowd that would have likely sent me into a claustrophobic panic attack. But he didn’t drive them away. He didn’t get mad at them for constantly asking to be healed. He loved and cared for them, and I can work to do the same.