|The Church as a Hospital|
Matthew 21:12-14 (RSV)
Some churches in this day and age seem so preoccupied with getting as much money as possible from their parishioners. They use television and radio programs, printed flyers, and even sermons during worship service to command, cajole, or produce guilt in their listeners to give more of their income for the "cause of God." Some churches become like the money-changers in the temple. They are so busy gathering money that they forget the true purpose of the church. They place more importance on the amounts of money in the offering plates than on serving the needs of those in the congregation who seek the Bread of Life (John 6:35). The pursuit of financial gain rules in place of the love of God and of one another. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount that one could not serve two masters: God and money (Matthew 6:24). Unfortunately, some churches either knowingly or unwittingly try to do this very thing. The weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faith are forgotten (Matthew 23:23).
This is often an unfortunate result when a church focuses its attention on filling its coffers than on proclaiming the Good News. Preferential treatment is given to those who contribute much in the form of financial help, though they may be deficient spiritually. While those who cannot contribute as much have their needs overlooked or ignored, though their faith may be greater. Recall the story of the widow's offering in the Temple (Mark 12:41-44). While she would not have gained the praise of the people around her for her small offering, Jesus pointed out to His disciples and praised her gift and declared that she had given more than all those who were contributing out of their abundance because she gave all that she had that day.
While it is good and necessary for Christians to financially support whatever church they attend, this activity should never overshadow what is supposed to be the main purpose of the church. That is, by God's grace, to bring sight to the spiritually blind and lame. It is to be a place where the penitent can come to Christ and find peace, joy, and the assurance of salvation for their souls.
The church must be a spiritual hospital where the brokenhearted, the downcast, those who thirst, those who hunger, in essence, the spiritually sick can come and find rest and healing for their souls. For Christ came to call sinners to repentance and healing (Matthew 9:12-13). Churches that claim the name of Christ should continue this call. Not for the sake of financial gain, but for the salvation of souls. The church must also be a place where the poor and needy can find relief. After all, the apostle James declares that part of pure and undefiled religion before God is visiting orphans and widows "in their affliction" (James 1:27).
What good is the faith of a church if it does not try to meet the needs of those in material distress? More of the financial resources of a church should be aimed in this direction, rather than in building elaborate ornaments or other structures in and around the church. Greater glory is shown to God by Christians helping one another in their needs than in structural embellishments.
Jesus drove the money-changers from the temple so that it could truly be called "a house of prayer" rather than "a den of robbers"; and so that those who needed spiritual and physical healing could come in to receive it. Many Christians churches today would do well to drive out the "money-changer" mentality within and become hospitals where the spiritually ill and the poor can get loving treatment and healing. By doing so the Spirit of God will reside in the church and be clearly seen by all outside, just as a lighted city on a hill at night is easily seen. And many within and without the church will give glory to God and be drawn closer to Him.