ORDINARYmoments: BAD STOMACH versus bad heart

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One day, I was reading Matthew chapter 15 while doing my daily devotion. This passage is a conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees and teachers of law. The Pharisees observed that Jesus was not following their* tradition to wash their hands before eating. Then, Jesus called them out for their hypocrisy – no matter how good their actions appeared to be, their worship was in vain if their hearts were not clean. Then Jesus explained to his disciples, “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). This reminded me of an incident:

Some years ago, my parents came to Malaysia to visit me. Since I live here, they have visited me many times and Malaysia isn’t a strange place to them anymore. However, they usually visited East Malaysia and never quite got around to seeing West Malaysia. That year, they decided to do something different. They wanted to tour around West Malaysia, including the famous Genting Highlands, all by themselves. So we made the necessary arrangements and happily they went off. My parents enjoyed themselves in West Malaysia for those few days, seeing various interesting sights, experiencing Malaysian hospitality, shopping in huge malls, and of course, eating delicious Malaysian food. On the last day, before heading to the airport, they had one last delicious Malaysian meal. At the airport, my father’s stomach became uncomfortable, and then started hurting badly. He had to go to the toilet multiple times, nearly missing the flight. Fortunately after taking some medicine my mother had brought along, he was better after boarding the plane. By the time they reached home safely, he was completely fine. In a way, I guess he probably had too much foreign food which his stomach could not cope with.

According to the aforementioned Bible passage, if a person eats something bad and upsets the stomach, whatever enters through the mouth will eventually come out of the body. After some rest and proper medication, the person will recover. On the other hand, if a person has a bad heart and does not repent, this person is what Jesus calls truly defiled.All kinds of evil will come out of his mouth. In this way, no matter how this person washes his hands, he is still unclean. Only repentance and believing in God will bring true cleanliness.

Thankfully that day my father only had a bad stomach, not a bad heart.

By Winnie Chan
Local Preacher of Wesley Methodist Church, Sibu