Question from a Site Viewer
I was wondering if churches that sell books and cds (or whatever) are similar to the synagogues that were selling stuff when Jesus was angered? In other words, should churches sell stuff?
You ask a good question as to whether churches should be selling books, cds, and other items. Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple stating: “My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). Some have taken this verse to mean that there should be no buying and selling in the church building. However, if one reads what Jesus said, He attacked the moneychangers for being thieves. They were stealing from the people. He did not attack the practice of selling sheep to those who traveled to Jerusalem. In fact, we find the opposite in Scripture. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, God tells his people that if the place where He chooses to place His name is too far for them to bring their tithes, then they could sell the firstfruits of their crops, covert the goods into money, go to the place and there buy lambs (or other things).
It was not practical for people to bring their tithes in terms of wheat, animals, etc., from long distances to Jerusalem. So God told them to convert their tithes and firstfruits to money and travel to Jerusalem and there buy their offerings. God was not against people buying animals for their sacrifices in Jerusalem. He was against those selling blemished animals as if they were good animals. He was against the thieves.
I know of no Scriptural passage that would condemn a church for selling merchandize at the church, as long as the merchandize is honoring to God, at a fair price, and is not in violation of other laws (e.g., copyright laws). Some churches have bookstores in their buildings. Others have schools and they may sell textbooks or curricula to students. These can be good things.
Nevertheless, I am not a fan of using the church building for selling things. The sin of our culture seems to be covetousness. I think it is helpful for the culture to have church be a place where one is not tempted to buy things. The church building can become a true sanctuary from the consumerism that is taught in our culture. For me, it is nice to go someplace where buying and selling is not present.
I also think those outside the church often see churches as simply wanting people’s money. They see it on television, on the Internet, and hear of it on radio constantly–send money! For such people, if they are invited to church and in the church they see people selling merchandise, such may be a stumbling block to them. I would like them, along with all others, to come to know that the church follows Christ in being a giving rather than a taking organization.
Ultimately, however, the issue is not about whether a church sells or does not sell merchandise. The issue is whether the church leads people to be Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus Christ. I have been in many churches that sell merchandise and do not represent Christ well. I have been in churches that sell merchandise and do represent Christ well. And I have been in churches that do not sell merchandise; some of them are making a difference in the God’s kingdom and some of them are not. The big issue is not how a church uses its building, but rather whether the church represents Christ well. Arguing much about this issue would play only into the enemy’s hand in causing division within Christ’s body.
I hope this helps. May the Lord Jesus give you the wisdom to find His will in this matter and the grace to love others who may believe differently.
a fellow pilgrim,