Wednesday, March 2, 2022

           I read a statistic recently that suggested the diet management and healthy eating industry in America is about $200 billion in annual revenue.  That is a lot of money and a lot of interest.  Certainly, making good choices about the food you eat and maintaining a healthy diet are important for all of us.  One day Jesus was engaged in a conversation with some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law about what was ceremonially “clean” and “unclean.”  These kinds of debates tended toward the minutiae and could drive a person almost crazy trying to keep track of what was or was not clean and, therefore, permissible.  Jesus said, “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean by going into him.  Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean” (Mark 7:15). 
            Jesus was saying that our primary problem is sin—what comes out of us.  We are not lost and separated from the Father because of what we do or do not eat.  Our problem comes from a sinful heart and sinful behavior—the very things that come out of us.  Jesus wanted His listeners not to get lost in fruitless debates and circular arguments about things that really did not matter.  The arguments about clean and unclean obscured the greater realities of God’s love, grace, forgiveness and Jesus’ death to make atonement for the sins of the world.
            Some Christians occasionally choose to enter a period of fasting where they redirect time that would have been spent eating physical food to longer periods of time praying, reflecting on Scripture, worshiping and being silent before the Lord.  During times of fasting, believers have chosen to change their intake from a physical meal to a spiritual meal.  When those listening to Jesus sought come clarification about what He had said in Mark 7:15, our Lord added the following.  “After He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable. ‘Are you so dull?’ He asked. ‘Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.’ (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)” (Mark 7:17-19). 
            Jesus would have us to focus on the health of the heart.  How are we doing with heart issues?  If you had a physical examination, your doctor would probably work through a variety of questions, tests and inquiries to determine your state of health and well-being.  In assessing our spiritual health, Jesus began with the heart.  You could read Jesus’ words for yourself in Mark 7:20-23.  The heart and mind can give rise to any number of motivations and impulses that result in sinful ways and sinful behavior.  Never neglect the heart.  Consider what you entertain in your heart, mind, motives and thoughts.  As Paul instructed us, dwell on what is good and right (see Philippians 4:8-9).  To be sure, the influences you allow into your life do matter and do impact who you are and who you become.  A piece of bread, a vegetable, meat or potatoes have no impact on your relationship with the Lord.  But your attentiveness or inattentiveness to sin surely does have an impact.  Jesus told His opponents that they had made food a scapegoat for their own unwillingness to address the matters that were primarily important—the condition of the heart and life.  The Proverbs issue a crucial warning more than once—guard your heart.  It is the wellspring of life.  Be more attentive to your heart than you would food, fashion or fame.  Never allow anything to become a substitute for who and what you are.  When you enjoy a meal today, give thanks to God for providing it.  And ask God to indwell and satisfy your heart just as the meal fills your hunger and stomach.  Have a great Wednesday!

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