14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 [“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”] 17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Jesus is further explaining His point about the difference between following the Law and honoring God. His purpose on earth in His ministry was to expose the law of love, which also is the heart of the Law, so that we stop focusing on honoring the rules but instead honoring God. We get so religious in our rule following and rituals that we completely forget about God, the One whom the rituals were made to worship in the first place! As Christians, we have taken this passage and distorted Jesus’ message. This is why Paul had to clear it up in his letter to the Romans as we read in Chapter 14:
1 Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: ” ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. 14 As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15 If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16 Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. 22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.
Yes, I went ahead and included the entire chapter because it is pertinent. A few years ago when I was just starting college, I met a man in one of my classes in his 50s who was going back to school so he could advance in his job. We all went out to dinner and he brought up his belief that pork meat is dirty and to honor God he refuses to eat it. I scoffed and objected. Then a few months later God hit me upside the head with this passage in Romans. I thought the guy was being silly for his belief and God called me out as a sinner for not honoring another man’s beliefs.
We get so caught up in the rules, even the rule of there not being rules, that it blinds our judgment and our view of God’s Kingdom. Jesus’ point was that it isn’t what we eat or don’t eat that makes us holy or unholy, it is the condition of our heart which is revealed by what flows out of it that defiles us and makes us sinners. The Jews were so indoctrinated with the Law that they focused on breaking the rules as sinful instead of honoring God by keeping the rules. Yesterday we talked about our hypocrisy in worship and how we continue missing the point of everything: salvation, worship, and honoring God. These are things we get to do, not that we have to do. Yet we force ourselves to do these things because we feel obligated, whether by tradition, position, or what others may think. Our relationship with God is a covenant He has offered for us to take and we choose to do so because of His love for us. This is also how a marriage is supposed to be, a choice of unconditional love.
So, we say that one who refrains from eating certain foods to honor God is one of little faith, yet we ourselves are displaying our lack of faith by judging that person. Let us review once more the list of sins Jesus is revealing that we display:
And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”