Then Peter spoke up, “Explain this riddle to us.” Jesus said, “Don’t you understand yet?Don’t you know that everything that goes into the mouth enters the stomach and goes out into the sewer? But what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight. Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual sins, thefts, false testimonies, and insults. These contaminate a person in God’s sight. But eating without washing hands doesn’t contaminate in God’s sight” (Matthew 15:15-20, Common English Bible).
Yesterday the Pharisees were complaining about the disciples not washing their hands before they ate. While it is, without question, a good hygiene practice, to not do so on occasion is hardly an earth-shattering event for which we should stop the presses at the local newspaper.
Jesus then went on to say, “Listen and understand. It’s not what goes into the mouth that contaminates a person in God’s sight. It’s what comes out of the mouth that contaminates the person” (Matthew 15:11, Common English Bible).
The disciples don’t understand what Jesus is saying. As is also what should by now be a pretty familiar occurrence, Peter is the one to speak up in today’s lesson, wanting an explanation to Jesus’ “riddle.”
Jesus, in what would have been pretty graphic terms for his time says, “What goes into the mouth goes out to the sewer.” In other words, whatever might be on our hands (and I think he speaks metaphorically here) isn’t what matters. The food we eat is going to go through its normal process from mouth to stomach to colon and gone whether we wash our hands or not. And, while we may think it gross to not wash our hands, Jesus says it really doesn’t matter to God.
I think it really doesn’t matter because for Jesus, a bodily process like food intake would be about fuel for the other things we do. What really matters for Jesus is, what is the condition of the heart. When we ignore the other things and instead focus on heart things, we find what is truly offensive to God.
For far too many of us, we have allowed our hearts to harden with the things of the world. Jesus says, what is in the heart is what will come out of the mouth. And the way we humans have lived, from the beginning, there is a pretty good chance what comes out of our mouths will be offensive to God.
We need to be about better than that. I believe, that for all of us, somewhere deep within us, within our hearts are the things of God. What is left for us is, to allow the spirit to chip away at the hardness, to chip away at the things that are offensive to God so what God placed there to begin with, love, will come through for the world to see in us, that they too may move past the things that are offensive to God.
What is in your heart you need to allow the Spirit to chip away?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved