KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
God, amidst the chatter of culture, help me to listen out for Your still, small voice.
Read Matthew 15:1–20
That Which Defiles
15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectReal spirituality is about lives transformed by the renewing of our minds.
I well remember the moment. It was a midweek church meeting with a guest speaker. During his talk he referred to some recent statistics about global hunger and then he said the following (censored) words. “It’s a disgrace that this is allowed to happen in the modern age, and the problem is, you’re more upset now that I used a swear word than the fact that millions are dying tonight for lack of food.”
It was an awkward moment and all present were relieved when we got to the refreshments. Not only did the speaker make a good point about injustice, he also highlighted a tension picked up by Jesus in this story. Jesus has been upbraided by the Pharisees for allowing his disciples to break rabbinic tradition by not washing their hands before eating. He retorts by citing an example of the way they break an actual commandment when it suits their purposes. And then, within earshot of the Pharisees, he exposes the hollowness of superficial religion.
Moral pollution is not caused by inadequate religious practice but by our own nature. God wants hearts that love him with all our soul, mind and strength. It’s not the detail of external rituals that should concern us, but the condition of our hearts.
Are you majoring on minor things? Is God asking you to focus on things that matter? What is some current issue that has touched your heart, but you have chosen to close your eyes to?
Jesus, forgive me for blinding my eyes to the needs around me. Break my heart for what breaks Yours and show me what to do.