(Matthew 15:10-20 ESV) And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
In the church world, we often get very concerned about the “shalt nots” of religion. Having been raised in church, I’m very aware that most churches have their own opinions about what is, or is not, acceptable behavior. We’ve all heard the old saying, “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t date the girls that do.”
While I agree there should be some thought given about what constitutes holy living, I would also suggest the need to investigate the inner attitudes of the heart that spill out and cause collateral damage.
Jesus was aware of individuals who were trying to catch him in a violation of Jewish law. In fact, he had just been asked about eating food without washing His hands. (Granted, my momma would have made me leave the dinner table if she found out I had not “warshed up.”)
Jesus made it clear that there were weightier matters than whether or not He had washed His hands.
For the most part, whatever I allow to enter my body by way of eating, drinking, inhaling, injecting, etc., only impacts me. (Obviously, this is not true of pregnant women, or those who are subject to second-hand smoke, or someone riding in a vehicle with an impaired driver, etc.) But, whatever proceeds from my heart has a much greater chance of negatively impacting me AND those within my circle of influence. So, the damage is greater.
In my experience as a pastor, I have witnessed individuals who were very legalistic in their interpretation of Scriptural commands to the point of being offensive to others. However, those same individuals were blind to the poisonous attitudes which infected their own spirit. They were more concerned with outside in, than inside out.
A spiritually mature person will have a balanced appreciation for both positions. By starting with the inner issues of the heart we stand a much greater chance of living a balanced life which produces good fruit.
Outside in? Or Inside out? With Jesus’ help, BOTH!
PRAYER: Father, I’m so thankful that you are patient with me as I attempt to work out my own salvation. Sometimes, I allow my point of view to get unbalanced and I prioritize the wrong things. Thank you for providing the necessary knowledge and wisdom that allows me to see life from Your perspective. Your insight helps me get my inside/outside right! Amen. (Right on!)