Flipping Over Tables and Cleaning House
May 31, 2019 08:13AM
● By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Now that my daughter is well again after several years of progressive illness, I’ve noticed she has taken on the task of sorting through piles in her room and purging that which is no longer helpful or needed. It’s been a very slow process, and sure, I would have loved this to be done two years ago, but seeing bags of donations appear in the hallway and paper fill her trashcan has been rather cathartic for me as well.
I’m trying to do this throughout various rooms of our home—part with items that have parked there since we deposited them upon moving in a decade ago. It’s been an interesting trip down memory lane.
But with it, so much of what used to seem important no longer holds space with meaning. I save several of the kids’ drawings and schoolwork, but I toss piles of irrelevant mail and coupons. Truth be told, they should never have landed anywhere but the trashcan in the first place after being opened.
Segue with me, if you will, into my day job. Among other publishing tasks, one of the more intense part of my responsibilities is developmental, content, and copy editing. I always find I need to read for a half hour before I can clean up someone else’s work. It quiets my heart and hones my proofreader’s eye. But no matter how still I am for sometimes even seven straight hours at a time, the manuscripts and I grow a little tired of each other. If I read an author’s pet phrase one more time, I might scream—but just until I brew another latte, at which time I think those phrases are nothing short of brilliant and start incorporating them into my own writing as well, ha!
At the end of the day, whether it’s papers, old clothes, or unnecessary wordage, we often need to purge that which is detracting from the main purpose.
A room can only function as a safe depository when obstacles are not strewn across the floor (and iced latte cups lined up like parking spaces on the desk and floor—but oh, how I digress!).
Boxes and piles of bygone importance cluttering functional space like an office are only going to distract and confuse. I know I can’t think properly with a lot in my peripheral vision. I need my laptop, current file, sometimes (not often) phone, and a pen in my workspace. Anything else vying for my attention is fluff and chaos.
And when that extra “just” or “truth be told” or “once in a while” is repeating itself like a soulless mantra all over the same page, I need to cut some of them out, reduce verbage, narrow in on clarity, and think like a reader desperately wanting the author to get to the point. I slice and dice after a while because unnecessary words and asides need to go. They are no longer serving the correct purpose.
And you know what this made me think of? Jesus when he flipped over the tables in the temple of God.
Following the story of the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding in Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine) comes a rather aggressive behavioral display. In His response to the money-changers at the temple of God, we see more of the Lion than the Lamb. Why is that?
John 2:13-22, ESV
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade." His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."
So the Jews said to him, "What sign do you show us for doing these things?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
I have always loved this passage, even when it confused me. I love that Jesus got angry and that He did something about it. It always empowered me that our Holy God who came to earth in human form would get fed up.
But He wasn’t angry as a personal venting session. He felt the entire purpose of His Father’s holy house had been violated. What was meant as a place to draw near to God, to worship, and to offer sacrifice became “a house of trade”—so far from its original purpose. He was flipping over what had no place being there.
And it had all been spoken by King David before the time of Christ: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Psalm 69:9, ESV
For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
In the temple that day, at the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was cleaning house. He was asserting a redo, a purging.
And it was for more than just restoring the temple to its proper intended function. He was preparing the listeners that He would be the temple of God in body, and He would rebuild it in three days at His death and resurrection. (And I’m very grateful that John spelled that out clearly for us because I really would have missed that analogy if I hadn’t read Jesus’s words.)
While it’s very nice to tidy rooms and documents, the greater question here is this:
How are you treating the temple of God?
A believer in Christ, upon repenting sins and inviting Jesus into his or her life as Savior and Lord, is indwelled with the Holy Spirit, the Helper. By His indwelling, our bodies become the very temple of God.
1 Corinthians 6:19, ESV
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.
So, what tables do you need to flip in your life? What clutter and wrong purposes do you need to purge from that temple?
In other words, what is keeping your complete focus from God?
Examine your life honestly. What needs a good toss out of the temple?
- Unhealthy relationships?
- Unwise use of time?
- Toxic eating?
- Poor use of resources?
- Temptations you fixate on?
- Fully activated sin (meaning you have moved from the temptation phase to the action phase)?
I’m not suggesting that you trash all relationships or even healthy pastimes. I’m simply saying that if they do not belong in the center of God’s will for you, push them outside the temple grounds.
Walk around your temple grounds and ask God about each item. Does it belong there? Is it getting in the way of worship? Is it bringing honor to God?
Taking inventory is so productive. It leads to personal growth. Have you made any part of the temple of God a house of trade?
Have you traded in and settled for something less than God’s best for you?
I am often led to a time of clearing the temple when I’m in a season of loss or disillusionment. Face to the floor, I ask God, “What do I keep? What needs to go? Give me Your vision.”
I am still in-process, like my daughter. Filling bags of unnecessary items takes time, wisdom, and maturity.
May my prayer ever be, every morning:
Oh, sweet Jesus, that "Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
She is the author of Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day and the founder and editor-in-chief of Ground Truth Press, a book publishing company.
A new rabbit breeder, she can also be found @thegivingrabbitry on Instagram.