Justice Matters to Jesus
He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” John 2:17
We often think about Jesus as healer, teacher, savior,… In all these things Jesus takes the problems that he encounters and fixes them in some way. If people are broken he heals them. If they are guilty he forgives them. If they are hungry he feeds them.
But here we see another side of Jesus that we too easily forget. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t just fix someone’s problems. Sometimes he challenges the systems that cause problems for people – especially people who live on the margins and have few reserves to rely on if something goes wrong in their lives.
The temple system had become more and more corrupt. The temple marketplace offered animals for sacrifice to people who came to the temple for a particular need or for an annual pilgrimage. Animals we overpriced on the premise that an animal bought at the temple was somehow more pleasing to God than one from someplace else. People paid a premium price for an ordinary animal. It wasn’t that there was money involved but that it was a rip off. It made Jesus mad. He felt a need to say and do something about it.
We often think of Jesus as the bringer of mercy – and he is. But he is also one who works and speaks for justice. When someone is treated unfairly and being taken advantage of, Jesus takes their side. When the system is stacked against people and in favor of a few, Jesus takes it on in order to expose the injustice.
A healthy Christian faith includes mercy. When people have problems we are called to feel the compassion of Jesus and act to heal, feed, or do whatever else we can to be helpful. But a healthy Christian faith is also concerned with justice. Faithful Christians do more than charity. They also speak out and work to make the world a fairer place to live – especially for the weakest and poorest among us.