For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?… Matt. 25 v 36-37
Jesus walked from house to house, from street to street; from village to village. He was sometimes tired, sometimes hungry and sometimes burdened about the people. He did not build a mansion for himself. He did not build a worship centre though thousands thronged to his crusades. His life was simple and devoid of all material trappings.
He went to the house of Mathew the tax collector to eat with him. He stood by the well and had a rather long discussion with the Samaritan woman. He had a warm relationship with several families and was always eager to share eternal truth with them. He had no other goal but to do the will of God and to complete it.
Take a pause and think. Why was Jesus always on the move? Though he had a foster father and a mother, there was no record that he stayed permanently with them. He had cause to tell those who wanted to know in Matt. 8.20/Luke 9.58, that “Foxes have their holes and the birds of the air have their nests ….but the son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” KJV.
In another instance he took the inquirers to see where he was staying. They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? 39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. KJV (John 1v38-39)
The point is that he did not stay in a place. He patronized the temple and even preached in it. But he did not spare those who were selling and buying in the temple. In Matt. 21v 12&13 “Then Jesus went into the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those selling doves. And He declared to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer.’ But you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” 1
It was thought then that the house of God was a physical building. But as time went on, Jesus made profound statements that made it clear that the house of God is beyond the physical building. He declared to the people in John 2 v19 “to destroy this temple and I would raise it in three days”. But then he was making a prophetic statement about his death and resurrection.
So where is the house of God? The first mention of the house of God was in Genesis 28 when Jacob had an encounter with the angel of God. He exclaimed in the course of the encounter that “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, how dreadful this place is! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’’ (vv. 16-17)
Witness Lee a bond servant of Christ (1905-1997), made this note on the experience of Jacob. “The Lord Jesus refers to Jacob’s dream in His word to Nathanael in John 1:51. “He said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’’ This is the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream, for Christ as the Son of Man with His humanity is the ladder set up on the earth and leading to heaven, keeping heaven open to earth and joining earth to heaven for the house of God—Bethel”.
While many ascribe the physical building to God as His place of abode there are ample evidence to show otherwise. He dwells in people and among his people. When the phrase house of God is used in the New Testament as we have in 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 3:6; and 1 Peter 4:17 it is not talking about the physical building but about the congregation of believers. God is where the people are. Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in their midst (Matt 18v20)
God is always about the people and nothing more. In Acts 7v47-48 we are made to understand that God does not dwell in temples made with human hands. But yet Solomon built a house for him. The natural question is why would God allow Solomon build a house for him when in fact he does not dwell in buildings made by man. The prayers of Solomon clearly shows that he understood that God does not dwell in building. Verse 27 of 1kings 8 states “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!
A proper understanding of that scripture will show that God can’t be limited and boxed to a house. The idols are restricted. They are stationery and could be carried about by the human folks who worship them. But God can’t be restricted. So when Solomon built a house for God, it was not that physical house that God was living but he was in what that house represents for the people of Israel. The implication is that though his presence is in that temple he is not limited to that temple. He does not live in a house built by hand simply means he does not have an abode in the human building.
Paul was to later make a categorical statement that we are the temple of God in 1 Cor. 6v19. The point again is that unlike the Old Testament where people looked up to a physical place for worship or faced Jerusalem while praying like Daniel did, we are not tied to a particular place in our worship under the New Covenant.
Jesus demonstrated this during his conversation with the Samaritan woman by the well in John 4v23 that it would come to a time when people would not have to go to Jerusalem to worship God and that those who worship God would worship him in truth and spirit. So when we build we have only built for ourselves. We have only put up a place to gather and not the house of God as it were. What we have is a church building. The church is the called out ones. So what we call the house of God is the house where the called out ones meet. Christians were not crazy about buildings in the first 200 years of the church. They were content with meeting in homes and in existing synagogues.
The truth is that the building without the people carries no weight. So why do we spend so much on building structures at the detriment of building people? If God does not reside in buildings why do we pride ourselves in cathedrals and grandiose structures as a pointer to our service to God? Many pastors boast of the structures they have in the name of God. Some list structures as their achievement. How can we point to the number of cars and buildings we acquire in the name of God as our achievement in His vineyard? What happened to our sense of humanity? Is there any joy in heaven over the mansions and properties we acquire in the name of God? The Bible states that there is joy in heaven over a soul that repents (Luke 15v7) but never states that heaven rejoices over our auditorium.
So it seems to be a subtle blackmail on God when we build houses meant for our own comfort as building house for God. It is in the same vein when we give to these buildings and we claim we are giving to God. The question that should readily come to us is where is God’s bank account? Are we not dragging God in the mud when we give to boost our ego, buy stuffs in the church building and later claim we have given money to God? In the first place God does not spend money. And he does not need our money. We are the ones who need this money and we are the ones who spend this money.
But Matt 25v 35-38 gives us a clear picture of where God’s bank account is. In that scripture Jesus makes us realize that anytime we pay attention to those who are challenged we have given to him. Jesus is in the people not in the building. If we want to give to God we give to the people who are poor or challenged. We give to servants of God who are laboring in God’s vineyard who need support. We visit the sick. We visit those in prison. If you want to do anything for God, do it to your fellow human being and you would have reached the heart of God.