Monday, November 7, 2011
Poisoned from Within
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:1-20
We have all grown up hearing that words can never hurt us. But they do. Children who grow up in a household where they are constantly berated absorb the cruelty as physical blows.and it opened their heart to all the negative images and insults the world can hurl. And it makes each of diminished when we turn our harsh words on others. We must be careful with what we put in our bodies. And we must also be even more careful with what comes out of our mouths, for wars and violence begin with a single spark, often ugly words long forgotten after the conflict continues to rage.
Jesus is being challenged by the religious leadership. His crew does not follow the letter of the law. He is teaching them to live by faith and compassion, but the powers that be would rather that conform rather than love others. In this day and age we are still challenged to conform, to worry about the exterior and forgo the interior, where all wars truly begin. Jesus tells them stories and then translates them hoping we will all understand that we can either be agents of love and compassion or agents of poison and destruction. We have a daily choice. There is no law to govern that choice, there is no dress code, style critic, church leader or others who can tell us how to live. We have to find it in our hearts to love when we hurt, forgive when we are broken and to ask for healing when we want revenge.
Today I ask God to help me examine my heart. Lord help me to root out the hurt and poison that can so easily spread. Breathe new hope and expectation into my heart, root out all bitterness and envy and make me a vessel for your compassion and care. May we all take the time to examine and cleanse our hearts so each of our corners of the world may be rid of violence and war this day.