Angry Like Jesus

I recently read a story about a man who had to deal with some unwelcome guests. He had been renting his house on Airbnb on weekends when he was traveling and, on this occasion, was expecting a group of four. Instead, 25 people showed up. Then more, and more, and more. The original renters promised the man the extra guests were only staying for an hour. When the hour had come and gone, the owner asked Airbnb to intervene. The original renters then lied to Airbnb, saying they had a verbal agreement with the owner to let 25 people stay at his (small!) house. Finally, the man went to the house in person and demanded everyone leave.

The kicker? The leader of the group who lied to Airbnb and the owner (multiple times) was a pastor. He had wanted the space for “a bible study.” I can’t speak for others, but if I welcome you into my house and then find out you’ve lied to me and are packing it full of people who shouldn’t be there… well, I don’t really care what you do for a living, you gotta go. Trying to use faith as an excuse only makes it worse.

It’s a frustrating story to read and the fact the bad guests were Christians makes me angry.

Anger: Good or Bad?

One of the most important things we learn to do as we grow up is distinguish between good and bad anger. Some anger is unreasonable, misdirected, and destructive. But some anger is righteous. That’s why I want to learn to be angry like Jesus.

In Matthew 21:12–17, we find a story that seems out of character for Jesus. Having entered Jerusalem in triumph a few verses before, Jesus now enters the Temple and finds money-changers and vendors (selling sacrificial animals) set up. Furious, he upends tables, throws chairs, and kicks all of them out.

It’s easy to read this story and wonder, “What is THAT about?”

Much like the Airbnb story above, it is a case of the wrong people being in the wrong place.

The part of the Temple Jesus clears out was known as “the court of the Gentiles.” It was the one part of the Temple grounds where Gentiles (non-Jews) were welcome. It was a place for them to seek God in peace and prayer. In fact, Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 when he says, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’”

With all the noise of buying and selling, it would have been too noisy for anyone to do much praying. With all the commercial activity focused on the sacrificial system, a non-Jew would have felt utterly out of place, in the very place designed to welcome them.

“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’” -Isaiah 56:7

Sacred Space

These merchants and money-changers are not where they belong; they have invaded sacred space. Their commercialism was preventing worship from taking place. They may even be extorting the poor (he calls them “robbers” at one point). They are using the location of the Temple to put a religious gloss on their business, and it makes Jesus furious.

So Jesus suggests (with the physical emphasis of flipping tables) that they leave. His anger is righteous, it is holy, and it is good.

This kind of anger can be a purifying force. It can motivate us to right wrongs when we see them, to root out injustice rather than sit back and let someone be taken advantage of or hurt. The world continues to throw obstacles in the way of people finding Jesus. Maybe it’s time for us to learn to be angry like he was, and to start flipping those obstacles out of the way whenever we find them.

What about you? What makes you angry? In our Where’s the Love? series, learn the difference between our anger and the righteous anger of Jesus.