Updated: Aug 23, 2021
When my son was three-and-a-half, we took him to Orlando for a Disney World vacation. While there, we went to a dinner theater that featured a medieval environment, with actors riding horses while performing knight-like battles in the hockey-sized arena before us. The performers assigned each section of the stands (8) a specific knight to root for (identified by the color of his outfit), with all other knights to be booed. There was a “pep rally” practice, making sure the audience knew how to properly act. All the while my son sat on our laps silently watching.
As it would be, our assigned knight was not predestined to win. In the jousting exercise, our knight was quickly knocked from his steed (by a Styrofoam lance) and had quickly regroup himself afoot, to stand with his sword against his opponent, in order to defend the honor of our section. He was able to knock his challenger off his horse in the next exchange; and for a brief moment our knight appeared to have the upper hand, as he wielded his sword towards the other knight, who acted dazed in the sawdust. The entire arena was silently watching the play unfold, when my son suddenly screamed out, “KILL HIM!!!”
The audience broke out into laughter, as they could tell it was the scream of a child – the only one in attendance (as the diner theater was not geared to cater to children). We had been unable to get a babysitter as travelers, so my son had to attend with us. It was a shame the diner theater did not cater more to children, as my son was the lone attendee in the audience that was completely mesmerized by the play laid out before him. To him, the actors were real.
Before my son was born, I drove a package car for United Parcel Service. My route was in a rural community, where roads had farmland with old houses, mixed between country subdivisions that were lined with Jim Walter homes and trailers. One road that I regularly drove on took me by a trailer that had a female Doberman Pincer always loose in the front yard. The sound of my engine caused that dog to get up barking and run in circles until my package car came to that yard. At that point she would chase the truck, trying to bite the tires. There were several times a month that I had to stop the car and make a delivery across the street from where that dog lived. Each time I turned off the motor, the dog instantly stopped barking and wagged its cropped tail in a friendly manner. She was a sweet dog that always welcomed my pats on her head.
I tell this story because that dog heard a high-pitched whir created by that U.P.S. truck’s motor. She was not the only dog that acted that way when my package car would drive by. The motor elicited a sound that only dogs could hear; and it made them act out like my son at the diner theater … as an automatic reaction to seeing a live play as if it were the same as he had seen on television. Dogs wanted to kill my engine as if it was a threat to their safety. My son had obviously seen television shows that presented killing as a way to remove threats. Still, when the tension was lifted (by laughter) or by the engine being turned off, the threat abated and life returned to calm. Peace and quiet prevailed once more. The Doberman did not want to bite me and my son did not think killing was anything more than an actor playing dead.
As for myself, I have inherited (it seems from my mother) an inability to keep from shouting out profanities and condemnations at the television set, when I heard the news of the day presented in what I think is a one-sided manner. I have to fight a similar urge when I sign onto Facebook and see slanderous memes or news from political sites that I shun. I find that politics is a thorn in my side that rubs me the wrong way, more often than not. I find that certain politicians give rise to an instant hatred in my heart, which erupts as a lava spew of bile and venom.
When my wife turns the television channel to a non-threatening station or I sign off of Facebook, it is just like when I would turn off my U.P.S. truck’s engine and that sweet Dobbie would instantly stop foaming at the mouth, cease barking madly, and no longer try to bite the tires of my truck. Without the presence of an irritating stimulus, calm, peace and quiet could and would return.
I remember all of this publicly now because Jesus said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” In these modern times, the media has become an extension of that debasing “potty mouth.” This makes it important to “listen and understand” this message that Jesus told the crowd surrounding him.
The context of the instruction that Jesus made publicly, with his explanation given to his disciples, was that the disciples had been seen eating bread without first washing their hands. We prior read how “some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”’ Thus, the context allows us to understand the intent behind Jesus speaking in response to those holy men, about being defiled through speech (spoken words). Jesus made a direct insult to those leaders of traditional Judaism, and not a general condemnation directed at one spewing foul language.
The religious leaders had spoken about their “traditional” faith (of washing hands before eating), in words that were not foul. They did not curse or swear. What Jesus said was defiling was their presenting a rule that was never a law set by Moses, from the Father, as holy and Israelite tradition. It was a “tradition of the elders” of Jerusalem (Zion). Jesus said those new rules were breaking the Commandments established in Exodus 21:15 (“Honor your father and mother”) & Exodus 21:17 (“Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death”). The leaders for the Temple of Jerusalem had thus replaced the fathers and mothers of all Jews, as “the elders” upon whom all honor of obedience should be bestowed. On a greater scale of disrespect, the Jewish leaders were forcing, via new tradition, the followers of God to curse their Father by following lesser gods (those religious leaders). The Pharisees (et al) were thereby condemning themselves to everlasting death, rather than eternal life in Heaven (which those “elders” did not truly believe existed).
As they walked away from that confrontation, the disciples pointed out to Jesus that those leaders had taken offense at the suggestion they had spoken in a defiling manner. Jesus explained to his disciples: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” That meant the “plants” were the new “traditions,” those that served men of the Temple and not God the Father. Jesus said, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” That was an instruction to not be led astray by “new traditions” that served man; because it will not only be the ones leading others astray that will suffer, but also those who followed them blindly. All will be found just as deserving of the pit.
Just as this instruction by Jesus (words that defile a man) is not fully grasped today, as the intent of that instruction becomes offensive to all church’s leaders forever to come (in the vein of “if the shoe fits”), the disciples were scratching their heads. Pharisees and teachers of the law will always prefer to avoid telling parishioners to be wary of their priests. The disciples, like today’s church-goers, wanted to please Jesus; but nobody wanted to rock the Temple boat (or church nave) and end up on a cross like Jesus would experience.
This is why Peter said, “Explain this parable to us.” When Jesus asked, “Are you also still without understanding?” Jesus was (in essence) asking, “When will you stop thinking with your brain and start believing with the Christ Mind?”
Jesus then explained to Peter and the other disciples, in the same way Jesus is now explaining to you: “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.” This means that everything you love, hate, feel sad about, regret, long for, plot to solve, and everything that can be conceived as thoughts stemming from the emotional center, all those brainwaves will automatically come spewing out of your mouth (verbally and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), as fast as my son screamed, “KILL HIM!” and as fast as that Doberman Pincer would run in circles. It is an automatic response to the heart’s commands.
All that will defile you, because the implication is you have become an “elder of new traditions,” in the Temple to the one god that is you. When you own your heart, you own the actions that come from those feelings, to the brain. What you think is right for you, thus a great rule for others to live by, is you own love of ego, not servitude to the LORD and His Commandments.
The instruction Jesus gave has very little to do with the saltiness of one’s language, just as those Pharisees did not curse at Jesus because his disciples ate bread without washing their hands first (they were starving from working so hard for Jesus). One cannot deduce that the Pharisees and teachers of the law (rabbis and scribes) spoke from being emotionally out of balance, as they seem to have felt fairly secure in the justness of their opinion. They spoke from being sure of themselves, as from a “holier than thou” position. Therefore, they were defiling themselves by placing so much value in their own sense of self-worth, at the expense of God’s Laws.
From understanding this instruction from Jesus properly, we are able to see further than the limits of those sins that are judgments against speaking with a foul mouth. In the news recently was how White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci spoke to a writer for New Yorker magazine, using some very foul language.
People whose hearts are looking for reasons to hate everything about the current White House administration then gleefully point out the sins documented about a Trump appointee. It brought forth a mass of self-righteous people screaming, “He didn’t wash his hands first! Kill him! Bite his tires!”
The same conclusion cannot be made about my son spewing out, “KILL HIM!” He had no real concept of what killing means, nor the Ten Commandments. Likewise, the Doberman only knew a sound was unbearable and had to be attacked, in the only way a dog knows. In regard for my screaming obscenities at the television, words did cross my lips, but … if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? I leave that conclusion up to you. Still, I sin if anyone hears a rant of emotion I evoke, whether they share my opinion or take offense.
This makes me recall a story told to me by a consultant who I worked with, a man who was born in Argentina. His first language was Spanish, so he spoke English with a heavy accent. That was because he immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was seventeen, beyond the age when language fluency is most quickly learned. He told me about how he spoke no English at all when his family relocated in the USA; and was too old to enter elementary school (too embarrassed to go to school with children). Without an ability to get a job because he did not speak English, his father told him to move out of their apartment. He was forced to adjust to his new country; and the only solution to that predicament was to join the United States Army, where he was forced to learn English, while also getting paid. He said that after he finished boot camp and was allowed leave to go home, he was proud to have become the first in his family to speak English. In celebration, the family went to a fancy steak restaurant to eat dinner. Because he spoke English, he ordered for everyone at his table.
My friend told us how he told the waiter, “I want the f*****g sirloin, medium f*****g rare. She wants the f*****g filet mignon, f*****g rare, he wants the f*****g porterhouse steak, f*****g medium” … etc. Just about every other word was a F-bomb. He said he had absolutely no idea that he was swearing or being rude and impolite. He simply thought the F-word was a standard adjective of English. After all, his Army teachers never told him that it was a foul word or what it meant. His Army buddies had not led him to believe it was wrong.
This means his heart was not filled with mean intent. He was an innocent as a child. He knew no better than my three year old son, or that sweet Doberman. He thought he was doing good by showing his family what he had learned. However, he had been led by the blind to fall into the pit of disgrace. He realized his mistake when the waiter told him he would be thrown out of the restaurant if he did not control his language.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law come to us today as offering new traditions, which is often called “social change.” The Commandments of God, through the laws of Moses, no longer fit that new tradition (a condition that existed soon after Moses called the elders of the twelve tribes around the camp fire to make sure they would agree to maintain only those laws). The Commandments were supposed to be memorized by the brain, until they seeped down into the heart and caused a love affair with the LORD, a natural desire to please Him, allowing Him to become the Master of their thoughts. The heart’s marriage with God, through love and total commitment, is the only way to prevent defiling thoughts from being emotionally spurred. Today, we have leaders of the churches that tell us it is okay to do wrong and go in ways that are contrary to the laws of Moses. They tell us not to worry about God’s Judgement, because God and Jesus Christ love everyone, everywhere, at all times (except those on their sh*t list).
Jesus had a word for those who come across so calmly, peacefully, and quietly suggesting that the sheeples follow blind shepherds. That word was “Hypocrites!” (with an exclamation point). Neither God nor Jesus Christ are concerned with who controls the White House, just as neither recommended “social change” as a way for destroying the Roman Empire and taking Judea and Galilee as God’s eternal gift to His chosen human beings (those who were supposed to be devoted as priests of the LORD). That means it is hypocritical for any human being to spew condemnations about anyone else in the world (as those who live in glass houses should not throw stones). However, if one does, one needs to beg God and Christ for forgiveness and get back to being a silent servant to the LORD. You don’t even have to speak words while seeking forgiveness. Speak to God with your heart, telling Him you made a defiling mistake and seek His help.
In the reading that follows this story of Jesus offending the Pharisees and scribes (which is actually the focal point of the Proper 15 reading), Jesus and his disciples encounter a Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her possessed daughter. The disciples try their best to run her off, but she persists. Jesus told her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The Canaanite mother responded by saying, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” That prompted Jesus to tell her that her faith was so great, her daughter’s mental health would be as the mother wished.
Seeing how that reading follows the confrontation with the Temple leaders and the explanation given to the disciples (and the primary focus now), means the two are read together on one Sunday during the Pentecost season because the Master is the Father … not some church leader. It is from God’s table that all Christians feed from, with Christians recognized as those of faith as great as the Canaanite woman. The disciples of Jesus were the “dogs” of the Son of God, who tended to the crowds that followed him, patiently waiting for a loaf of bread to fall into their dirty hands. Famished from their devoted service, they ate like dogs, without washing their hands first. The followers of Christ are the dogs that work diligently and wait obediently until they are fed a crumb. The dogs of God are never the ones who tell others how wrong and sinful they are, like the Pharisees and teachers of new traditions. The dogs – man’s best friends – speak upon command, when God leads them to speak from the Mind of Christ, through lips that are made righteous by a pure heart.
The hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Temple rabbis was in thinking that a human being can have the brain of a god and have God approve personal opinions. It is a repeating theme in the parables and stories of Jesus; and, it is repeated today in all holy leaders today, those who never see themselves as dogs waiting for holy crumbs. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander,” which seems strange to hear.
We so often hear how Jesus loved this and Jesus loved that, while associating love with the heart. We are told to forgive the sins of those who eat without washing first, as if we have any power of forgiveness – we do not. A human heart that is filled with evil intent is flesh, pumping red blood. It pumps out physical senses, such that we clutch our chests with love, hate, anger, and sadness. The emotions of a human heart change like the wind. It is an organ of the physical body and not the soul that longs to be reunited with the Master. A human heart is why Christians kneel at their pews and confess all the evils in their hearts that have led them to sin … once again. A human heart is why a priest will abuse that position of trust, in more ways than one.
The noises of the physical world affect that heart, just as my U.P.S. truck engine caused a sweet Doberman Pincer to bark and chase wildly. Television and social media are the high-pitched shrills that fill hearts with evil intentions. It is not about helping others, as the rush of emotion is all about self-worth and personal opinion known by others. A heart pumping out evil intent makes the brain think self is high and mighty, when the reality is the spirit is most poor – low and defiled.
We need to see ourselves as children, innocent or possessed, in need of a crumb of faith that will fall from our advocate’s table. We have to become those sleeping dogs that snap to attention when the warning sound arises, but who love to be petted when the noise of the world pauses. We need to be centered by a love of God filling our souls. We need to serve others, in our service to God and Christ. We need to stop thinking what would make the world a better place for us to shine in and wait for the Master’s voice to tell us, “Eat. You have deserved a crumb.”