This morning I read the story in Mark 11 of Jesus cleansing the Temple. He was angry with those who were using worship at the Temple for their own gain. Since most of us haven’t been guilty of selling birds or running a currency exchange in the back of the church, we are afforded the opportunity to smugly look down on those rascals that Jesus tossed out.
But it strikes me that I have been guilty of attending church for wrong reasons. A sense of obligation is not a good reason. Fear of criticism is not a good reason. The desire to feel good is not a good reason. The only valid reason to worship is because my understanding of who I am and who God is requires me to gather with others to bring praise to the God who loves us. Like those money changers, I can be guilty of worshiping me while pretending to worship God.
On the other hand, I can look back and see that even when my motive has not been pure (can my motives ever be totally pure?), I have grown in my relationship with God as a result of attending church. God can minister to me even when I’m not interacting with him appropriately. If we learn anything from Christ it is that God does not stand on his dignity when the welfare of his children is at stake.
The point of this post is to challenge myself and others to see that we are more like those against whom Jesus acts than we would like to admit. The reason that those characters are in the Bible is to challenge us to be something different. But without a work of Grace in our lives, we will gravitate toward those very behaviors.
There is not one tendency of the Pharisees that I have not seen in my own heart. Thankfully, as I draw closer to Jesus these tendencies have reduced control in my life, but they are still there.
Mark 7:20-23 records Jesus as saying:
“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The point is not to make believers to be worse than we really are, but to remind us that the tendency toward these behaviors lies within us. We are in constant need of Grace and in constant need to be gracious to others.