Mind what you think — Matthew 15:15–20

The concern of Jesus — part 4

40 blogs of Lent — day 15

What goes into the mouth does not harm us: Not usually, we tend to avoid toxins.

There I go again, being over literal when reading the Bible. That’s the autism talking, I can miss it when people are talking figuratively, even failing to use the word literally literally. That said I do understand metaphor and simile, and I am a user of irony, even if I muss it in others.

A diagram showing the human digestive system

15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

Matthew 15:15–20 ESV UK

Peter gets the telling off again. The last time was when he came to Jesus walking on the sea, unlike the other disciples who stayed safe in the boat. What faith to do that! Peter even remembered to call on Jesus immediately when he started to sink rather than use his own efforts and try to swim for it. I empathise with Peter, especially as he asks Jesus to explain the parable. If I had not seen the word parable in the passage I would not have even noticed that there was one. Even after reading again and re-reading several tomes I am not sure where the literal speaking in the verses previous to this ends and the parable starts.

My blog posts are always an autistic view of the Bible and of church, mixed with a disabled person’s view and the view of a chronically ill person. There are things in the Bible I find unsettling, even more things in the practice of the church, but this passage is not one of them. I have enough trouble dealing with those parts which tell me I need to change, it is one of those bits which I am familiar with, but has never spoken to me. Working through a Bible book like this forces me to look at these parts also.

So what have I got?

Live by the Spirit

Whilst praying I got the feeling I should check out the passage on the works of the flesh versus the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Paul is talking about freedom in loving service to your neighbour. By reading only small passages we miss that this is about social action and how we should do it. But we miss that out and get on to the lists:

  • The works of the flesh: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.
  • The fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus is talking about these works of the flesh when he spoke about what comes from the heart: evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness and slander. Paul’s answer which comes before and after his lists is to live by the Spirit. Not for the warm fluffy feelings that we get from memes on social media, but in order to serve other people.

Be careful what you wish for. I you desire fame above all else you become vain. Desire wealth above all else and you become greedy. Desire to be a god and you become arrogant. But if you submit yourself to God then the Holy Spirit makes you more like God. You are what you worship.

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