Eckhart on Driving Merchants from our Souls and Temples

Part of the Holy Week story is the revolutionary act attributed to Jesus of turning over tables of the sellers in the Temple.  New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton tells us that actually Jesus organized “squads” of several hundred people to do this:

They overturned the vendors’ tables, released the birds, untethered animals and drove them out the ceremonial gate…. Vendors yelled and shouted in outrage and horror.   

Merchant updated: Former White House spiritual advisor Paula White pitches for “first fruits offerings” of listeners’ January paychecks to her ministry in return for greater blessings. Screenshot from Paula White Ministries, via Snopes.

The gospels condense the events of Holy Week into a single week for liturgical purposes, but scholars tell us they took place over several months.

Eckhart, who saw a growing gap between rich and poor in his day, offered a challenging sermon on Matthew 21:12: “Jesus then went into the temple and drove out all those who were selling and buying there.”  Castigating what he called the “merchant mentality,” an attitude that can poison everything we do and value, Eckhart tells us that the “temple” is “the soul of a person.”

“Emptied” Photo by Tehzeeb Kazmi on Unsplash

Therefore the first economic revolution has to occur within ourselves.

For this reason God wishes the temple to be empty so that nothing can be in it but himself alone.

We need to empty ourselves to create space for God.

Now listen to me closely! I shall preach now without exception only about good people. Nevertheless, I shall at this time show who the merchants were then and still are today — those who were buying and selling then, and are still doing so, the ones our Lord whipped and drove out of the temples.

Eckhart declares that religious people who fast, hold vigils, pray, and do similar good deeds in order that God “give them something. . . . All these people are merchants.” They are “bargaining” with God. They forget that

…whatever they are, they owe to God, and whatever they have they have from God and not from themselves. Therefore, God is not at all in debt to them.

The bottom line is that

truth does not long for any kind of commercial deal. God does not seek his own interest. In all his deeds he is unencumbered and free, and accomplishes them out of genuine love. The person united with God behaves in the same way.

Feeding the hungry: volunteers prepare grocery bags for delivery. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

That is why living and loving and working without a why are so important.

This means we are called to work without profit as the sole motive. It means contributing to the common good.

It also means we need sometimes to empty our souls, finding the silence and nothingness that is there, to receive God’s presence.  Then the soul

…is brought into a pure, clear light, which is God himself. . . . For God becomes known to God in the soul. Then the soul knows itself and all things with the same wisdom.

Eckhart talking about mindfulness. Mindfulness cannot happen if we are not empty, if we are filled with projects and projections. We need time and space for emptying, for being, for living and working without a why.

See Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, p. 228 and 215-230.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times, pp. 233f.

Eckhart’s entire sermon with commentary can be found in Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, pp. 450-463.

Banner Image: “Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple.” Painting by Cecco del Caravaggio (1610). On Wikimedia Commons.

Is it your experience also that “truth does not long for any kind of deal?”  What follows from that?  Do you agree that mind-full-ness requires mind-emptiness?

Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior For Our Time

While Matthew Fox recognizes that Meister Eckhart has influenced thinkers throughout history, he also wants to introduce Eckhart to today’s activists addressing contemporary crises. Toward that end, Fox creates dialogues between Eckhart and Carl Jung, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rabbi Heschel, Black Elk, Karl Marx, Rumi, Adrienne Rich, Dorothee Soelle, David Korten, Anita Roddick, Lily Yeh, M.C. Richards, and many others.
“Matthew Fox is perhaps the greatest writer on Meister Eckhart that has ever existed. (He) has successfully bridged a gap between Eckhart as a shamanistic personality and Eckhart as a post-modern mentor to the Inter-faith movement, to reveal just how cosmic Eckhart really is, and how remarkably relevant to today’s religious crisis! ” — Steven Herrmann, Author of Spiritual Democracy: The Wisdom of Early American Visionaries for the Journey Forward

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6 thoughts on “Eckhart on Driving Merchants from our Souls and Temples”

  1. Avatar

    “Sometimes we need to empty our souls, finding the nothingness and silence that is there to find God’s Presence.”
    I agree wholeheartedly: It is when my heart is quiet and still that I find God within and without. I am grateful for the Qigong practice that has recently opened up for me on a daily basis. I then am so filled with energy that Presence fills my whole being with light and life and love, and I can send this energy to my beloved brothers and sisters in the whole world, to all animals and to all of nature. God be praised!

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      And I am grateful Vivian, that you have found Qigong and that it is filling you with light, life and love. Thank you for sending it’s energy out to all beings!

  2. Avatar

    Most people pray asking for favors for themselves or for others. We should also listen to what God wants from us. Concentrate of giving instead of getting and you will actually receive more.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      The law of giving and receiving is that “as you give, so shall you receive.” Thanks for your comment Ron!

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