There is so much insight to gain from taking a step back and reading sacred text, learning to grow from the examples others have set, and setting a standard for life from those great examples. I am a firm believer that all written word is sacred and all books are holy. In this devotion series, I not only will draw from the bible, but other philosophical, artistic, and religious works that spark my spirit and hopefully inspire you as well.
2 Kings 12: 1-11
12 1 In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king and reigned 40 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah, who was from Beer-sheba. 2 Throughout the time Jehoiada the priest instructed him, Joash did what was right in the Lord’s sight. 3 Yet the high places were not taken away; the people continued sacrificing and burning incense on the high places.
Repairing the Temple
4 Then Joash said to the priests, “All the dedicated money brought to the Lord’s temple, census money, money from vows, and all money voluntarily given for the Lord’s temple, 5 each priest is to take from his assessor[a] and repair whatever damage to the temple is found.”[b]
6 But by the twenty-third year of the reign of King Joash, the priests had not repaired the damage[c] to the temple. 7 So King Joash called Jehoiadathe priest and the other priests and said, “Why haven’t you repaired the temple’s damage? Since you haven’t, don’t take any money from your assessors; instead, hand it over for the repair of the temple.” 8 So the priests agreed they would not take money from the people and they would not repair the temple’s damage.
9 Then Jehoiada the priest took a chest, bored a hole in its lid, and set it beside the altar on the right side as one enters the Lord’s temple; in it the priests who guarded the threshold put all the money brought into the Lord’s temple. 10 Whenever they saw there was a large amount of money in the chest, the king’s secretary and the high priest would go to the Lord’s temple and count the money found there and tie it up in bags. 11 Then they would put the counted money into the hands of those doing the work—those who oversaw the Lord’s temple. They in turn would pay it out to those working on the Lord’s temple—the carpenters, the builders, 12 the masons, and the stonecutters—and would use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the damage to the Lord’s temple and for all spending for temple repairs.
13 However, no silver bowls, wick trimmers, sprinkling basins, trumpets, or any articles of gold or silver were made for the Lord’s temple from the money brought into the temple. 14 Instead, it was given to those doing the work, and they repaired the Lord’s temple with it.
So here is this kid who sees beyond the beyond and is able to discern that care for the temple of worship is as important as allowing the ritual mountains to maintain their sovereignty. He also sees that the priests have a responsibility, since they are the caretakers of the temple, to invest their money into maintaining the structural integrity of the temple, instead of keeping the money from those who have given it to them in good faith. It took this king from the time he was seven until he was thirty years old to convince the priests that this was the right thing to do. How can this be? Sounds counter intuitive, right?
This passage burnt me up a little because this is a very old problem that we still see and some of us struggle with when it comes to trusting spiritual teachers with our offerings to the Holy One.
What made the priests think that they were entitled to the money from their assessors without doing repairs to the temple? What sensibility compelled them to think they had no responsibility in the upkeep of their most sacred space?
When the work in the temple was complete, the people who did the work were compensated accordingly, but they were not the priests, they were members of the community adept and skilled at service. I wonder if they had any expectations of payment.
This, to me, is a great metaphor for so much of the systemic corruption we see in religion, politics, and government today, but to be honest, I don’t feel like beating a dead horse. We know and can clearly see the modern-day clergy men and women flying around the world in their private jets with that same sense of entitlement that was a problem that this young king worked diligently to eradicate. We everyday kings and queens are the kings and queens of the high places, the places where no building of wood or stone could ever compare. Our temple is that of the mind, the body and the spirit. Our investment is our time and attention to the care of each interdependent structure.
What we eat, what we drink, say, think and act upon serve as investments to the temple or acts of taking our holy temples for granted. Every moment we have a beauteous opportunity to take the gifts that we have been given and invest them into personal repair- be it emotional, physical, or spiritual. When we want to eat that donut or smoke that cigarette or flip off that jerk who cut us off in traffic, or be hateful to someone of a different culture or sexuality, we are given an opportunity to be satisfied with the status quo of hoarding our greatest asset – love – or investing in the temple of creation. The temple is an ecosystem of atoms, molecules, spirit, mystery, and intention that allows us to be able to live, breathe, eat, procreate, reason, get rich, and make choices. What kind of choices could we make if we decided to invest our greatest asset? What would happen if we dropped the defensive attitudes of self-entitlement, and supplanted them with a little elbow grease?
This reading is an invitation to work diligently to love and care for myself, so that I can care for my family and our holy temple at home, at work, in the community and society that needs as much love structural repair as it can receive.
In the book, Our Appointment with Life, Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh speaks of wrongdoing: ideas, thoughts, and actions that take away from our own dignity and well-being and that of others:
“All wrongdoings arise because of mind
If mind is transformed, can any wrongdoing remain?
After repentance, my heart is light like the cloud floating free in the sky.”
This invitation to emerge from the confines of the mind through prayer, contemplation, and most importantly, the act of carving a new pathway to peace is vastly rewarding, more than any dollar amount or private jet. How many of us have to courage to skip out on purchasing the big status symbol to prioritize the foundation of our happiness without any embellishments?
The Brihad Upanishad gives us a clue:
You are what your deep driving desire is
As your desire is, so is your will
As your will is, so is your deed
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
What a challenge to know that we bear the responsibility to develop and prioritize our lives within the mind, body, and spirit. If you were able to cast a reflection of these aspects of yourself, and observe them closely, what would you see? What would you want to change?
This is the sacred conversation I had with myself this morning as I plunged into the deep waters of my past – healing, reconciling and measuring. Now it is time for me to carve the wood, forge strong metal beams in the fire of my life and start repairing what I once took for granted. I thank all that is holy for another chance to change, shift perspectives and grow.
“There were people who went to sleep last night,
poor and rich and white and black,
but they will never wake again.
And those dead folks would give anything at all
for just five minutes of this weather
or ten minutes of plowing.
So you watch yourself about complaining.
What you’re supposed to do
when you don’t like a thing is change it.
If you can’t change it,
change the way you think about it.”