“Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach and is expelled?” (thus he declared all foods clean) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.” v. 18-20
You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”? It’s a good reminder to make healthy food choices for a better life. Good advice as far as physical health is concerned. But the ancient world, to whom Jesus first spoke, took that idea to a deeper level. They observed strict food laws and customs for the sake of spiritual purity. God had given laws about clean and unclean food to teach his people how to be set apart from the pagan practices of surrounding peoples, and, very likely for health reasons. However, by Jesus day, such a system of eating and washing had been created among them that people began to base their sense of rightness with God on what they put in their bodies with little or no concern for what was coming out of their hearts. So theoretically, you could hate your neighbor, cheat your friends, and idolize money as long as you observed proper eating and washing rituals. The religious leaders had become like those Paul would later describe who, “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ, their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:18-19) Their faith had been reduced to superstition, since they had elevated what went into their stomachs to a higher place than what came out of their hearts. Jesus turned this superstitious approach on its ear with his words here. His point was simple; It’s not what you hold in your stomach, but what you hold in your heart that determines where you are with God. While observing food laws would have some value, it’s not the ultimate sign of righteousness. Jesus would say, what good is a life free of pork with a heart full of “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness….” ? While the Pharisees were saying “You are what you eat.” Jesus was saying, “You are what you love most.” No wonder the Pharisees were so angry at Jesus. Just when they had come up with a comfortable system of righteousness, one that made them feel holy without having to go too deep with God, Jesus came along and messed it up. Even today Jesus has a way of messing up our superstitious systems and forcing us to deal with our hearts, when we’d rather just keep things nice and neat on the surface. He loves us too much to let us get away with that. Just when we think we have our hair the right length, our dresses and sleeves the right length, and have finally struck the perfect balance of modesty and style, he comes along and says, “man looks on the appearance, but God looks at the heart.” The just when we think we have found the perfect circle of spiritual friends, so as to avoid any appearance of evil, Jesus says, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick.” To make matters worse, just when we think we’ve made enough rules about music, television, movies, holiday observances, political parties, and we’ve found the perfect version of the Bible, and the perfect church affiliation, with the perfect balance of worship, word, and works, and we’ve adorned our homes and cars with Christian insignia and are spending the perfect amount of time in devotions, using the most popular spiritual guides and our families are finally marching in step with other Christian families and we’re about rest on the mountain of cultural sainthood, having finally arrived in a place of perfect outward righteousness, Jesus comes along and says, “Get a new diet.” Stop focusing on what goes into your stomach, and fill your heart with the things of God. What good is short or long hair if the heart is full of pride? What good is a Christian bumper sticker if the driver is full of rage? What good is a strict life if behind it lies an empty heart? Now don’t misunderstand. It’s important to think about how you dress, what you put in your body, and what you do for fun. Just understand that Jesus is more concerned with what’s going on in your heart than anything else. So we need a heart healthy diet of God’s word and prayer to help us be free of evil desires and attitudes. Ask yourself this question, When you finally get alone and let your hair down, what falls out? In other words, what are you like when no one is looking? You see, for Jesus all the outward righteousness in the world cannot replace a heart that is truly devoted to Him. Are you living a heart healthy life?