Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Matthew 15: 15 – 20
It can be easy for us to look at the Pharisees with all their laws and rituals and feel superior. But the truth is we constantly make the same mistake as them and judge people according to what is on the outside. We form opinions on people based on how they look, whether they fit in, how they talk. In fact a study just last year found that there is still a bias in hiring against people with working class accents! The things we look for have changed, but we are just as capable of being superficial and judging based on outward characteristics.
Jesus says what’s most important is what’s on the inside: what we call character. A person of good character is someone who is conscientious, truthful and kind, and it shows in their actions. While a person of bad character will soon reveal their selfishness. And that has nothing to do with appearances. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t fit in, look impressive or even if they make us personally feel uncomfortable. If they have good character that’s what really matters. Likewise we should be wary of people who walk the walk and say all the right things, but who lack integrity. In time their lack of character will show. It’s a mark of real wisdom when we can see past our biases and recognise good character in the people that others dismiss.
Pray: God of Wisdom, help me to see beyond superficial appearances. Help me to be a good judge of character. Give me the wisdom to recognise the value and gifts in others, and good sense not be led astray by people whose words are convincing but intentions are destructive.
Act: Give someone a compliment or encouragement today for one of their gifts. All the better if it is for something that isn’t usually acknowledged by others.