There is an ongoing debate about sell by dates on food. We need to be careful we don’t poison ourselves, but are manufacturers over-cautious in their labelling? Is food perfectly ok beyond its sell by date, and is much food wasted because of it? We need to exercise care of what we eat, but are we sometimes too careful? Bad food will not do us any good, and anyone who has every had food poisoning can testify to that! But do we always come to the right conclusion about what is bad.
As Jesus continues on from yesterdays lesson about what is clean, he turns thoughts to what is eaten:
What Really Makes People Unclean
14Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”17After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.
20Then Jesus said:
What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.
Jesus continues to radically redefine issues of purity and impurity (Tom Wright p 72). He wants the focus to be on lives not rules.
There was a supposition that what was eaten could make a person “clean” or “unclean”. That had nothing to do with health and hygiene and everything to do with more controlling laws. What you eat is not going to effect your eternity. Food laws were to keep you well, not make God like you or not. And so the lesson is not so much be careful what you eat, but be careful what you do and say. The food you eat doesn’t make you the kind of person you are, but how you behave and what you say do – that is what we should be more concerned about.
When we stop and look at our lives, do we concentrate on the right things, or do we worry too much about trivialities? Do we focus on the core things Jesus asks of us, or spend too much time and energy on the things around the edges that are more personal preferences than gospel truths? Are we distracted by outer trimmings rather than what is going on in hearts?
Yes, we are asked to pause and reflect, but we need to make sure we reflect on the things that matter to God, not to anyone we think is looking over our shoulder.
Is your heart right with God?,
is the fundamental question. If anyone else is worried by other things, that is their problem, not yours.
Tom’s prayer for today(p 73):
Give us courage,
to follow you,
this Lent and always,
on the path that leads to full purity of heart