17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
These words must have been tough for people to grasp in Jesus’ day. Those who interact with people who are Jewish and especially Orthodox Jewish, know that it is extremely important to keep dairy away from meat, and to maintain a kosher household. Jesus here is saying that we are defiled not by what we eat, but by what we do. How difficult for one who has grown up observing dietary restrictions to simply throw that all away!
On the other hand, Jesus’ list of wrongs is difficult too, because though some of them are condemned as blatantly wrong in our culture, others are allowed, even given a measure of acceptance. We fail to call a sin by its rightful name.
We are not defiled by what foods we eat, but we are defiled by words we say and actions we do that do not honor God. We get the first, but fall short on the second.
Help us, Lord, not to look down upon those who follow different traditions in their eating, while failing to condemn in ourselves the wrongs we do that do not honor you. Let us name them and claim those wrongs that have defiled us. Forgive us. Cleanse us through Jesus’ shed blood for us on the cross, for only he can make us whole again. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.