“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers’” (Matthew 21:12).
We read in the Gospel how Holy Week began with Jesus entering the temple and driving out all that bought and sold…what does this have to say to us? The temple God wants to be master of is the human soul, which he created and fashioned just like himself. He made each soul so much like himself that nothing else in heaven or on earth resembles him so much. That is why God wants the temple to be pure, so pure that nothing should dwell there except he himself. But who exactly are the people who buy and sell? Are they not precisely the good people? They strive to be good people who do their good deeds to the glory of God so that God will give them something in return. They are all merchants. They want to exchange one thing for another and to trade with our Lord. But they will be cheated out of their bargain—for what they have or have attained is actually given to them by God.
Lest we forget, we do what we do only by the help of God, and so God is never obligated to us. God gives us nothing and does nothing except out of his own free will. What we are, we are because of God, and whatever we have, we receive from God, and not by our own contriving. Therefore, God is not in the least obligated to us—neither for our deeds nor for our gifts. He gives to us freely. People are very foolish when they want to trade with God. They know little or nothing of the truth. Light and darkness cannot exist side by side. God himself is the truth. When he enters the temple, he drives out ignorance and darkness and reveals himself in light and truth. Then, when the truth is known, merchants must depart—for truth wants no merchandising! God does not seek his own benefit. In everything he acts only out of love. As long as we look for some kind of pay for what we do, as long as we want to get something from God in some kind of exchange, we are like merchants. If you want to be rid of the commercial spirit, then by all means do all you can in the way of good works, but do so solely for the praise of God.
Adapted from Bread and Wine (Meister Eckhart)