Matthew 15:8,16-20 – These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. "Are you 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 the mouth come from the heart and these make a man 'unclean'. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean'". (NIV)
The bread used in our church for communion is the unleavened wafer, which, when taken into the mouth, dissolves slowly on the tongue. Each time I take this bread, I hold it in my mouth until I return to my seat, and I am spiritually delighted as it gradually melts. It is as if the Lord lingers a little longer within me each time.
Last time, however, as this happened, I thought, with guilt, of the other things that enter my mouth — things not quite so health-giving. I have struggled all my life with my weight, and I am sometimes ashamed at what I put into my mouth. I remember a teacher in school long ago, who told of the proverb, "We dig our graves with our teeth", and of the old conviction of the temperance movement, "Lips that touch wine will never touch mine."
That is when the verses of today's scripture came into my mind, relieving, somewhat, my guilt. That's one of the things I love about Jesus: He seems always ready to relieve guilt, while others seem anxious to add to it.
Indeed, we know that we must be concerned about the things that we put into our bodies, but Jesus enjoins us to be even more concerned about the things that come out of our mouths. As He said, these reflect what is in our hearts, and He was always concerned about what is in the heart of a person. So, we will not worry quite so much about what we eat, but, with His help, we will try to keep our hearts clean, free from bitterness, judgement of others, a critical spirit, and the vanity of conceit. What will come out of our mouths today that will help someone?
Prayer: Lord, help us to keep our minds and hearts fixed on you. Purify our thoughts, so that what comes from our lips will always be helpful to others, for so we may help to build your kingdom of justice and peace. Amen.