In this case, I think we have grossly neglected the heart of what Jesus meant when He declared, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Matthew 15:11, NASB). We have used so much ink trying to demonstrate that Jesus wasn’t doing away with the health laws that we’ve missed His point altogether.
Jesus’ point in this saying was that many times we can be meticulous about what we allow to enter our bodies – whether via the mouth or eyes or otherwise – but we ignore the fact that our hearts are rotten to the core. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” Jesus says a few verses later, “Murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (vv. 19-20, NKJV).
To put it bluntly: I have seen people get up and walk out of a church service or wedding reception because they don’t want to be defiled by the music that is being played, but they murder people by what comes out of their mouths. “We need to guard the avenues,” they will say. And thus we spend a lot of time avoiding bad movies, sensual music, and unhealthy foods, thinking we are making ourselves less defiled and more holy.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying we should cast off all restraint, nor am I trying to justify loose standards. I am a pretty big advocate of conservative personal standards. There is also no doubt that there is a direct link between what we put into our bodies and what comes out. But I fear we have replaced the ceremonial laws, which we criticize the Pharisees for being so devoted to, with the health and natural laws. And all the while we neglect the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).
The truth is, if the chief focus of my Christian experience consists of doing and not doing; of trying to reach a certain standard of sanctification; of trying to be a more consistent and bold witness; of trying to pass out as many prophecy tracts that I can; then I am in danger of becoming what Jesus called a “whitewashed tomb” (Matthew 23:27), because Christianity is primarily about relationship (you remember: “justice and mercy and faith”) not about performance.
The performance-based Christianity is literally a dead-end – for everyone. I have seen enough people get hurt – and hurt themselves – because they have been drowned in hopeless despair by the it’s-what-enters-you-based-religion.