Into the stomach or out from the heart?


Mark 7: 14-23

I am a vegetarian.  (Mostly.)

Technically, I am a pescetarian, meaning I still eat fish but not meat.  I made the jump a to a mostly plant-based diet few years ago, following the example of my daughter and other folks I knew who had given up eating meat.  I did it for philosophical reasons, for ethical reasons, and generally speaking, because I was trying to live a more healthy life.

The true vegetarians I know truly never eat meat. Never ever.  They just don’t.  I can’t say that I am that disciplined.  I can’t really bypass turkey at Thanksgiving.  I usually will eat meat when visiting my mother.  (Whatever she serves, I will eat.) If I am at a luncheon or banquet and there are no vegetarian main dish options offered, I’ll eat a lot of vegetables (but I’ll probably take a little meat too).

I feel a little guilty about it when I have meat.  If you are going to choose a certain lifestyle and tell people that you follow that lifestyle, it seems hypocritical to back down from that for the sake of convenience.

I think: The true vegetarians I know must be better people than me, because they would be more careful about what they put in their stomachs. 

Of course, if I’m living a relatively healthy life style, whether I eat meat now and then or not doesn’t really matter.

For example, as a vegetarian, do I have the right to criticize those of you who would have a Big Mac and fries for lunch?  As a person who eats meat regularly, do you have the right to criticize my decision not to eat hamburger or chicken?

Jesus was talking to folks who thought whether or not you were following Jewish dietary laws determined whether you were righteous or not.  Jesus tries to straighten out their thinking on this.  No food is inherently “evil” and nothing you eat that passes through your stomach will defile you as a person.

Instead, it’s what comes out of your heart that can defile you.  All kinds of evil intentions and unkind words can come out of our hearts and muddy our lives like pollution in a mountain stream.

Jesus says to stop blaming secondary things like food and drink for our lack of righteousness.  It’s time to take responsibility for what we bring forth from inside ourselves and live our lives as disciples of the risen Lord.  It’s time to live by the greater law of love which Jesus teaches us.


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