“’Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.’” (Matthew 15:17-20, NIV)
At the time that Jesus spoke these words, his audience was keenly interested in maintaining ritual purity. Eating with unwashed hands was a violation of the rules of ritual purity. In a way, it was a kind of “spiritual etiquette.” In other words, if you had good “spiritual manners,” you were deemed to be a good person. Even today, there is a kind of etiquette that confers acceptance on the consumption of the right foods, the wearing of the right clothes, residence at the right address, and friendship with the right kind of people.
Jesus’ words serve to remind us that it is not what we put into our mouth that makes us impure or unclean; but it is what we allow to come out of our mouth, since that is indicative of what is in our heart. As important as it may be to our physical health for us to watch what we eat; it is as important to our spiritual and physical health for us to watch what we say, both to others and about others. Only the latter — the condition of the heart — is of eternal consequence. – Luther