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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Inflow determines outflow

14-15"Listen now, all of you— take this to heart. It's not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it's what you vomit—that's the real pollution."  
20-23"It's what comes out of a person that pollutes: obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness—all these are vomit from the heart. There is the source of your pollution."
(Mark 7:14-15; 20-23)

With today's incessant emphasis on diets, new and improved probiotic-infused foods, and custom-designed daily vitamins, it is a wonder that we know what matters anymore.  So many times we focus more on what "goes into" the body and completely miss the importance of what it is that "comes out" of that same man or woman in the form of action, attitude, and exemplified values.  Jesus is speaking to that very thing in this passage.  He and his disciples have just been criticized for not "washing" prior to partaking of their meal.  Trust me, there was no real concern on their part that the disciples practiced good hand-hygiene to reduce the spread of micro-organisms!  It was a "custom", plain and simple, that they were bypassing - and that drew the attention of the Pharisees.

In one sense, we can be too overly focused on what it is that we "allow" into our physical bodies (not to say that we shouldn't be conscientious to eat well).  On the other hand, we can be too nonchalant about our physical intake, bringing unwanted things like obesity, clogged arteries, and diabetes into our lives.  So, focusing on what "goes into" our physical bodies is not exactly a bad thing - but it is not the primary focus Jesus is concerned with here.

His concern is in what we allow into our lives that will ultimately "pollute" everything that comes out of our lives.  The list of "outward" manifestations of things that are hidden in the recesses of a man's mind, or heart, is what he is concerned with.  These are directly impacted by what we allow to be the repeated focus of our thoughts, or the continual intake of damaging things through our physical senses like sight or sound.  

As we examine the list of "outward" manifestations of what is "inwardly" embraced, it easy to see why he is so concerned with our "intake".  Obscenities - morally offensive, disgusting, and repulsive communication.  Lusts - intense and uncontrolled desires of all types that demand fulfillment and suck up our focus in life.  Thefts - the taking of what we have no right to on our own.  Murders - the "ending of life" may not be literal, but even the desire to "do away" with another is a crime in Jesus' book.  Adulteries - the uncontrolled urge to take what belongs to another.  Greed - the continual desire for more and the competition to always outdo the other guy.  Depravity - evil, corrupt, totally consumed by what pleases self and demeans another.  Deceptive dealings - fraudulent, misleading, misguided actions.  Carousing - loose living.  Mean looks and slander - wrong conduct toward another that damages or demeans another's reputation or self-image.  Arrogance - the incessant desire to be the best and to be noticed for it.  Foolishness - you could name any number of things here!  

The question we need to ask is simple:  What is "going into" our lives that may "come out" in a manner that is not honoring of others, or that will damage the image of what others might believe about God as a result of our behavior or actions?  We need to be cognizant of the "outflow" of our lives.  We can only do that by being conscious of the "inflow".  What goes in is what comes out!