“And then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles…Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.” ~Matthew 15:10-18
Sometimes it is a very interesting exercise to read the words of Jesus against the backdrop of personal ideals or agendas…Here I sit writing some thoughts on healthy living and stewardship which I’m pretty sure are directly affected by what does or does not go into mouths. And yet here are Jesus’ words, seemingly contradicting the very ideals of watching what you eat. So, how do I sleep at night? Am I right or is Jesus right? Are these two ideas mutually exclusive?
Let me be clear in saying, Jesus is always right. But I’m not convinced that makes me wrong. I don’t believe these two ideas are mutually exclusive. It is exceptionally important for us to pay attention to what comes out of our mouth when we speak – a topic for another blog considering we’ve lost the ability to communicate responsibly in so many areas of life. It is also exceptionally important to pay attention to what we put into our bodies as well. Now let me tell you why…
I seem to remember Jesus also saying, “You have heard it said, ‘do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus was not only concerned about the execution of the law in the most practical sense, he came to fulfill the grand narrative behind the law. To him, and to any who claim to follow, it was not just about exterior actions…it was about the connection between and interior relationship that necessarily leads to exterior actions. Followers of the way are called to stand against the explicit action of adultery AND the implicit brokenness of lust. I’ve never heard a pastor say, “It’s ok to look just don’t touch.” Perhaps that is the mentality we work from though which would explain the crumbling of families in the church…
So, if Jesus is worried about what goes into our eyes, is that the only part? Or is he also worried about what goes into out mouths?
Let’s return to our first text…what is Jesus frustrated with? What is he standing against? I do not believe Jesus is flip flopping to exclusively emphasize exterior actions. I believe he is standing true to form; he is fulfilling the law to the fullest. Again the leaders were focused on the exterior actions of hand-washing as if clean hands were the saving grace of God. Jesus responds with the above text and says its about head and heart going hand in hand.
Jesus was not giving a blank check to eat whatever you want, however much you want for as long as you want. That would contradict Jesus’ emphasis on feeding the hungry through the stewardship of our resources; it would open the flood gates to stop caring for our own temples; it would condone our present confusion of overeating with the biblical model of feasts; it would support our “clean your plate” mentality over against biblical gleaning; and that list could continue.
My point is this…Jesus never once says, eat whatever you want because it doesn’t really affect your faith. If you think that logic works, tell you spouse you’d like to implement the “look but don’t touch” model at the local strip club or adult movie store…That should make us uncomfortable to say the least. Why? Because what we put in our bodies matters. What are we watching? What are we listening to? What are we eating?