In the Temple
Originally scheduled for February 27
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an
unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the
Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat
of the bread and drink of the cup.
(1 Corinthians 11:27-28 NASB)
It is a common practice in communion for the
speaker to encourage his audience to examine themselves. There seems
to be little advice, however, on exactly how we are to do this.
Perhaps we can learn from a parable told by our Lord to some of his
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in
themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with
contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee
and the other a tax collector. "The Pharisee stood and was praying
this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people:
swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 'I
fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' "But the tax
collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift
up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be
merciful to me, the sinner!' "I tell you, this man went to his house
justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
(Luke 18:9-14 NASB)
Please note that the parable is not addressed
to the Pharisees themselves, but to “some people.” We may assume
this includes the disciples of Christ. We may therefore learn from
Both the tax collector and the Pharisee are in
the temple, the same place at the same time — with the same
objective: they are seeking to deal with the issue of righteousness.
It is instructive to see how they differ.
First, please note that Christ does not accuse
this Pharisee of lying about his achievements. We may therefore
assume that he indeed does fast and tithes as he says. He is living
the life of a pious man who follows the rules. He’s proud of it,
too. But there are two problems with his attitudes:
<![endif]>Self-Righteousness. The Pharisee
evidently asked thinks that God is some sort of cosmic bean counter.
If your white beans
outnumber your black ones, you get to go to heaven. He’s taking no
chances in this; he lives the outwardly pious life. His sins, he
thinks, are trivial compared to his righteousness. Surely, God would
<![endif]>Contempt for Others. This might more
commonly be expressed as, “I At least I’m not as bad as…” Note that
his comments do the tax collector no good — but they do make the
Pharisee feel a lot better. This is stroking your own ego.
The tax collector approaches the problem quite
differently. He describes himself as “THE sinner.” There is no sense
of him comparing himself to others. Indeed the conversation between
him and God revolves entirely around the fact that he is a sinner.
He comes right to the point: “Have mercy on me.” He appeals to the
grace of Almighty God — and not without effect.
Therefore, when you examine yourself today,
make no comparison with others. If you must mention them at all your
prayers, let it be for the purpose of making amends and fixing your
mistakes. Do not tell God your virtues, but rather seek his mercy
while it may be found. Then handle the body and blood of Christ in a
worthy manner, a sinner seeking grace.