Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
Matthew 15: 10 – 11
Many of the laws that the Jewish people observe related to what kinds of food could be eaten and when. You probably know that pork is forbidden to both Jewish and Muslim people, but did you know that observant Jewish people shouldn’t drink milk at a meal where they are eating meat? We also have laws and customs about what is appropriate to eat – how many people are comfortable with the idea of eating dog, horse, snake, insects or larvae?
Jesus here is saying something that was very radical to the people listening to him. They defined their culture and identity by these laws about food – food practices were basic to what made them Jewish and being Jewish meant that they were purer and closer to God than the other, surrounding cultures. But Jesus was saying that food laws and customs, and by implication other laws and customs too, were not what made them clean, better than their neighbours and closer to God. No, it was what they said, what came out of their mouths, that made them clean or dirty. It is easy to judge by the superficial things, whether someone follows our customs, or fits into our group. But this isn’t how God judges us.
Prayer: Beloved and just Lord, you see our hearts and all that we think and do. You hear every word from our mouths. Help us to see others with your eyes and not to be led astray by superficial things. Help us to love and value what you love and value in those around us, and free us, we pray, from the constraints and customs of our culture. Amen
Action: think about what differences in people we find difficult to cope with, for example, language, dress, colour, sexuality. How do you think Jesus sees those people? How do you think he sees you?