By the time we reach the middle of the gospel
of Matthew, the confrontation between the
Pharisees and Jesus is in full swing. Time after
time throughout the gospels, religious leaders
oppose Jesus. They ask him questions in order to
try and trap him in his words. On at least one
occasion, in fact, we see “the chief priests and the
scribes and the elders” (Mark 11:27) sending
some strange bedfellows—”the Pharisees and
some of the Herodians” (Mark 12:13)—to question
Jesus. In that particular questioning, the text is
clear: those who were sent to Jesus were sent not
to get the truth. While they heap false praise upon
Jesus in an attempt to appeal to Jesus’s nonexistent earthly pride, we quickly realize that they
were actually sent to do whatever it took to find
cause for silencing Jesus, regardless of the truth.
Jesus sees right through them, of course.
In Matthew 15, Jesus offers a scathing rebuke
to the false piety of the Pharisees. The Pharisees
seem interested only in following human tradition.
Rightfully, Jesus scolds them for this, declaring as
vanity their supposed devotion to God. In the
midst of this censure, Jesus turns to the people,
calling them to him, and he declares, “It is not
what goes into the mouth that defiles a person,
but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a
person” (Matthew 15:11). Jesus announces that it
is not food that makes someone unclean. Instead,
it is what comes out of the heart that matters.
In Matthew 15:18, Jesus says, “But what
comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.”
And, what comes out of our hearts is a direct
product of what goes into our hearts. Whatever
we take in from our culture—TV, movies,
podcasts, books, social media, news, politics,
entertainment, etc.—will, in some way, come out
of us. As Christ followers, we must be vigilant to
take in what is good and right and holy.