In response to the many overweight and unhealthy Christians I have heard justify their intemperate appetites with Jesus’ words, I offer this rebuttal. Consider Jesus’ statement in Mark 7:15,
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
People who are inclined to indulge their passions use this scripture to justify the eating and drinking of anything. Somewhat laughingly, the 300-pound Christian will say, “I can eat the pork chops, overstuffed potato, and cheesecake if I want to, because it can’t defile me.”
Can a Christian eat any food?
People who really want to do a thing will find a way to rationalize it and justify it. Twisting the words of Jesus to justify gluttony or the eating of junk food, they carry on in their self-destructive habits. Believers should live modestly, not just in clothing and morals, but also in weight, health, and self-control.
To use the above passage to justify eating “anything” would be to say that you can ingest arsenic and strychnine. If physical things cannot defile you, then go smoke, drink, and shoot up drugs. However, we know that every element of our natural world affects our bodies—some can even kill us.
So what did Jesus mean?
He was talking to Jewish Law-keepers. They believed they were holy or unholy depending on several things, including foods they ate. While following the rituals of cleansing pots, washing their hands, and eating a pure diet, they allowed their hearts to fill with all kinds of wickedness. Like many Christians, they were experts at keeping the rules, but not catching the spirit of them.
Jesus was not teaching them to go and glut up at the Greasy Spoon. He was teaching them to stop overlooking the pollutants that would destroy their soul, no matter how well they kept their bodies:
Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart…
And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7:18-23)
Stop doing the dishes
If a person is going to take the above passage out of context and use it to justify junky eating, then he or she should stop washing the dishes. In fact, you should also stop washing your hands. Read it for yourself:
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
Does God Care what Christians Eat?
This question brought out Jesus’ discussion of foods in the verses you read above. It was not a health discussion, but a religious argument. Jesus brought it to the real focus:
For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. (7:8)
He was not against washing dishes, disinfecting your hands, or eating healthy. His point was that we should not be more concerned about outward cleanliness at the neglect of inward purity.
Make sure you are just as germ conscious about what dwells in your soul, happens in your mind, and comes out of your mouth. Each time you load your dishwasher, scrub your hands, or sit down to a healthy meal, check your heart.