More Than Words Can Say

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When Jesus was eight years old, his parents took him to the Temple and gave two young pigeons as their offering, the sacrifice prescribed for the very poor. Thirty years later, Jesus entered the Temple again and saw retailers and bankers price-gouging the poor—folks needing to buy sacrificial animals for the Jewish ritual sacrifices. Bankers, meanwhile, charged exorbitant interest rates to exchange “unclean” Roman money for the special money needed for Temple use.

Jesus saw everything and said nothing. But in front of everyone, he began to bind a whip of cords, slowly twining one rope strand to another. And his onlookers grew aware that he was about to take sides. Without his saying a word, people saw clearly that business-as-usual would not pass the Son of God. This time, profit maximization at any cost was literally beaten back as Jesus chased out of the Temple those who valued money above people. As it happens, Jesus expects us to love people and use things, not the other way around. He did not fashion a whip to punish the woman caught in adultery; he flailed it at love of money—the sin most public and respectable, which St. Paul reminds us is the root of much evil.

On another occasion, compassion for a blind man moved Jesus to heal him. Many times before, our Lord had restored sight with a word. But this was the Sabbath, and he wished to make a point. So he did the one thing every Jew knew was prohibited: On the day of rest, he made something. He spit on some dirt, made mud, and placed it on the man’s eyes. This silent act exposed the hearts of the super-pious who considered religion a matter of what one didn’t do; and no good Jew worked on the Sabbath. But Jesus’ physical healing and muddy hands showed that “faith without works is dead.”

Something about a physical gesture makes for an undeniable statement. We may convince others that they misinterpreted our words, but it’s almost impossible to erase the meaning of what we do. Knowing a gesture’s power, Jesus used one to show his distaste for the twin false gods of money and religion. Without a word, he said that as long as we rely on these things, we can never learn to rely on Him.

Now those gestures speak to us: Will we roll up our sleeves and dirty our hands to live out our faith in service to those in need? Or is our greatest claim to Christian faith the list of things that we don’t do? Jesus made a whip of cords and dirtied his hands on behalf of those in need; and He is ready to help us choose rightly today as we seek the high calling of our daily work.