10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’
17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’
Matthew 15: 10-11, 17-20 NRSV
Much is made these days about the kind of food that people eat. In this passage, the Pharisees have asked Jesus a question. Zealous about food regulations, they wanted to know if certain food pollutes our bodies. What makes people religiously unacceptable to God? These “religious leaders'' disapproved of Jesus’s disciples, because they sometimes ate with ritually unwashed hands.
Today, there is a lot of attention, and money spent around food. Many people are very diligent about their health, and what they put into their bodies. Our bodies are referred to in the bible as the “temple of God”. This passage is speaking to a different kind of nourishment, and how to take care of our heart, mind and soul.
Jesus cares deeply about what comes out of the mouth, rather than what goes in. So often, we look in the wrong places for what pollutes us. What comes out of our mouths is a testament to who we are. Our actions and words emanate from our heart, and reveal what can sometimes be our polluted condition. In other words, sin isn’t what you eat. Sin is a condition of the heart.
In this passage, Jesus is explaining how rituals have nothing to do with defiling the law or sinning. The Phrases believed that following the laws, including food laws, was far more important than focusing on what was coming out of their mouths.
Jesus wants us to know that our relationship with him is far more important than the ancient rituals. He wants us to understand that what we feed into our heart, will then come out of our mouths. If we are filling ourselves with sin, then what comes out of our mouths will be a reflection of that sin.
Therefore, Jesus came to offer us a new heart. The forgiveness He offers cleanses us from the inside out.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23, New Living Translation
You love me with a pure, unconditional love, in spite of my sin. Thank You! Cleanse me from all impurity. Help me to remember that You care deeply for what is in my heart. May my words and actions be pleasing to You. I pray this prayer in Jesus’ Holy name. Amen.
PS. 30 Days of Gratitude Question:
What accomplishment in your life are you thankful for?