Jesus warns His followers that what we say is far more important than we might imagine.
as told by Deborah
Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Pay attention, this is important: it isn’t what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth.”
Later his disciples told him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard what you said?”
“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” Jesus said, “Let them be; they are blind guides. And when the blind lead the blind, they’ll both end up falling into a pit.”
But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”
Jesus said, “Don’t you understand? Can’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes through the stomach and ends up in the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and that defiles your soul.
“Because the heart is the source of wickedness and deceit, hateful plans, murder, envy, contempt and conceit, theft, lies, slander. These debase and corrupt a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does no harm to the soul.”
Peter said, “Explain this parable to us.”
Oh, Peter, for heaven’s sake, what’s not to get? How can you mistake Jesus’ straightforward statement about the power of words for “a parable” — as if it is a riddle to be solved?
Isn’t it obvious that what we say matters? Especially in these days of verbal assaults and angry accusations, we can readily see that what is said can hurt and wound and destroy.
Despite the ancient adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” we’ve all been hurt by words at one time or another. What we eat may lead to indigestion, but labels and judgments, snide comments, hateful remarks, smirks and sneers can leave lasting marks.
We straighten our shoulders and lift our chins, attempting to be brave and unconcerned: “They shall not pull me down.” And yet words — the cynicism and sarcasm, the catcalls and criticism — sting our hearts like grains of sand blown by a windstorm. It is death by a thousand cuts. (Sarcasm is literally “to tear the flesh.”)
There are those who use that terrible knowledge with the intention of cutting down, shutting up, shaming, defaming, and demeaning. Words, from the mouths of the hateful, become weapons.
It is clear, as Jesus says, that our words hold great power: what we say can harm and corrupt, and even destroy others.
Except that’s not what he’s saying.
Angry, hateful, judgmental words are like verbal boomerangs. They turn against the speaker. When we condemn and demean others, we’re poisoning ourselves.
Our words are, in some important way, our destiny. Our lips speak our truth: the reality of who we are. The barbs we hurl at others betray our inner nature: the hate, the accusations, the malice — we are describing the condition of our own soul.
What comes out of our mouth comes from the heart: our words are ourselves. When we insult and revile and condemn others, we’re giving vent to our interior corruption, like the stench of rotting garbage. With each repeated vile remark, each hateful comment, the evil grows deeper and begins to overwhelm all else.
Jesus said, "It isn’t what goes into your mouth, but
what comes out of your mouth that defiles you."
Jesus warns us to pay attention to what we say — not so we won’t hurt other people’s feelings (although that’s important), but so we don’t defile ourselves. It is significant that Lord chooses the word “defile” (especially considering that this is a teaching about language!); it means corrupted, filthy, contaminated by something so vile that it excludes the person from entering the temple of God. You might substitute the word “unholy.”
“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?”
How do we dare to use “unclean lips” to pray to the Beloved?
Yes, words can hurt. They can wound and tear at the hearts of those we insult and degrade, but they do more — and more lasting — damage to ourselves.
“What goes into the mouth goes through the stomach and out into the sewer;” but what comes out of the mouth can turn our hearts into septic tanks, contaminating our spirits and defiling our souls. We need to be ever-mindful of what we say as well as what we do.
It is so easy to overlook our own misdeeds. Cleanse me of my hidden faults. Don’t let me be arrogant, smug in my sins — don’t let them control me. Then I will be well on the Way, free from all that can drag me down. Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
~ Psalm 19:12-14
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
~ author unknown