After unwrapping the meat and setting it on the cutting board, the wife chopped off both ends of the ham with a butcher knife, tossing the two small ends in the garbage can.
"Wait a minute," said the mystified husband. "Why did you do that? Why did you just cut off the ends of the ham like that?" "I don't know. My mother always did," answered the wife. "Maybe it helps bring out the flavor."
Unsatisfied with this answer, the husband called his mother-in-law. "Can you tell me why you cut the two ends off of a ham before you cook it?" "Well," said the mother, "I'm not really sure why. That's just the way my mother did her ham, and it was always delicious."
As soon as he hung up he called his wife's grandmother. "Grandma, we have an important question for you. Can you tell us why you cut the ends off of a ham before you cook it?" "Oh my yes, dear," answered Grandma in her quiet, thin voice. "I cut the ends of the ham off so it would fit in my pan."*
This story speaks volumes about how traditions trap us and keep us from experiencing all that God originally intended for us. Sometimes, it is important to examine why we do the things we do; and whether or not they are beneficial.
It is also important to make certain that we do not develop bad traditions to begin with. The Apostle Paul witnessed a bad tradition developing in the church at Corinth with regard to the way they were celebrating the Lord’s Supper in I Corinthians 11:20-34. He boldly challenged the Corinthian Christians to correct their bad habits before they became ingrained in their tradition:
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.
Indeed, we would all do well to reflect upon how we approach the Table of our Lord during Communion, and to make certain that we have examined ourselves and are not partaking unworthily. It is better to be judged by ourselves and to make any necessary changes than to be judged by our God and suffer His discipline.