We can 'swallow' things both in the literal sense and in a figurative manner. Swallow your mashed potatoes and meatloaf at dinner and you have eaten dinner. Swallow a really bad scheme and you have potentially set out on a path you will come to regret. What goes into a man or woman is as important as what comes out! When the right stuff goes in - the right stuff is more likely to come out! 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. There was this day when the disciples were being criticized for not "washing" prior to partaking of their meal. Trust me, this was not based upon a real concern 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 religious leaders who were zealous about keeping every letter of the Law.
"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. 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)
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 take in good stuff). 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. While focusing on what "goes into" our physical bodies is not exactly a bad thing - 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 it that is "going into" our lives that could "come out" in a manner that is not honoring of others or God, 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! Count on it! Just sayin!