Market presumes a transactional valuing of life. When that is certified by religion it begins to mark the beginning of what will ultimately move from being an incipient to a full-blown idolatry.
For 13 years the Wisconsin United Methodist Federation for Social Action has read a book for Lent. This year it is Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street by Jim Wallis. You can follow along with the reading or review other books at their Lenten website.
Jim Wallis has this to say about this passage:
A few points about context. This passage is often misunderstood. Jesus’ indignation and anger were not fueled by the buying and selling of goods in the temple. In others words, this passage is not an indictment against church bake sales, and I’m pretty sure even a gift shop in a cathedral is still okay! The passage is about greed, not commerce.As always prophets are questioned by the establishment for whom all things are working out well. What would be your response if you were caught being a mini-prophet? Might it be similar to Martin Luther who was channelling Jesus when he was questioned - “Here I stand I can do no other”. Somewhere along the way your body will have to come into a conversation about life.
The story is set during the time of Passover, when pilgrims traveling from distant countries came to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. When they arrived, they were supposed to offer sacrifices, but it would have been impossible for these travelers to bring livestock with them on their long journeys. The merchants and money changers conveniently set up shop in the temple’s outer court to provide these pilgrims with the scripturally mandated animal sacrifies. However, the worshippers were frequently cheated in this marketplace. Greedy money changers inflated the currency rate (only a certain type of coin could be used in the temple), and the merchants had a monopoly on the sacrifice market.
Interestingly, in his turning over of tables, Jesus specifically targeted the merchants who were selling doves. Doves were the least expensive sacrifice permitted to be offered in the temple and, therefore, were often bought by the poorest of the pilgrims.
It was a marketplace that took advantage of the poor, who had little other choice. It was a “subprime” marketplace in which a few accumulated great wealth for themselves at the expense of those who could least afford to pay. The money changers had taken a place reserved for the values of God, and used it to put their profits first. No doubt these money changers would have argued that they were only responding to a demand of the market, but Jesus didn’t seem to see it that way. What was happening in the marketplace was a spiritual and moral problem, not just an economic one.