Saturday, June 9, 2012

Are you still so dull?

Matthew 15:10-20 (NIV)

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “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.”
“Are you still so dull?” I’m going to start using that one with our kids as soon as tomorrow. Max especially is fond of asking a question, getting an answer, and then asking the exact same question. A typical conversation goes something like this:
Max: Dad, do you think I can have a Popsicle?
Me: No Max, you already brushed your teeth tonight.
Max: But Dad, do you think I can still have a Popsicle?
An added wrinkle is when it’s a “why” question when he has a predetermined answer that will trump whatever response he gets from us.
Max: Dad, where do you think that ambulance is going?
Me: Probably to the hospital, bud.
Max: No, where do you think that ambulance is going?
Me: I already told you, the hospital.
Max: No. It is driving to where something exploded.
And so it goes. When the child rejects your answer or refuses to accept your explanation, you wonder why you bothered in the first place. With Jack, the “Are you still so dull?” approach could come in handy when it comes to something like getting ready for school on time (the same time every day for the last two years, yet it’s still a race out the door each morning) or restating a common sense house rule we’ve gone over daily for as long as any of us can recall (is flushing the toilet really that difficult to remember?). I don’t think our children are unique in this regard, and I’m certain we’ll still be having similar issues even through high school (“How many times have I told you, you have got to call home if you’re going over to a friend’s house after school?”) and perhaps beyond. I’m sure my mother could readily supply a list of lessons I refused to learn or, from my preschool days, questions I asked repeatedly despite plenty of satisfactory answers. Not that I need her to, I’m just suggesting she could.

Of course, the actual point of this passage is far more serious. Earlier in the chapter Jesus is dealing with Pharisees who are upset his disciples did not wash properly before eating, thus violating religious code. Jesus’ response is basically to say that’s an issue of policy, not sin. What we say, though, reflects how we feel. And we sin with our hearts.
“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.”
I felt that bore repeating because it struck me as I read it the first time. I don’t know if this particular passage is so much about watching your tongue as it is about the root of sin, and also the notion that evil thoughts are troublesome — not just evil actions. It is easy to not murder. I’m almost 33 and haven’t come close to killing anyone. But have I pondered if my world would be better were another human no longer alive? That’s a horrible thing to think, and it’s no real consolation to smooth it over by saying, “Well, of course I’m not serious about it.”

Of late, a popular theme for newspaper advice columns (I get paid to read these things) is the notion of the emotional affair. Essentially, it’s a nonphysical relationship between two people when at least one of them is in another romantic relationship. (As in, a guy is married but he is much closer emotionally to a woman he works with.) Usually the offending party buys into the “We’re not even kissing, so how can it be cheating?” logic, completely ignoring the sin they’re committing by putting a third party higher in importance than their primary relationship.

As it relates to my kids, the lesson I’m taking away from this is to make sure I am doing my best to my words reflect my actions, my actions reflect my words and both of them are an honest reflector of my thoughts. Think good thoughts, say what I think, do what I say. The place to start is asking God to help me keep my thoughts pure and then for the courage to act with that clarity of mind and spirit. If not, I’ll just be a hypocrite, and I don’t think that’s a solid foundation for good parenting.

A prayer for June 9:

Lord, I ask you to cleanse my heart. Help me to remain pure in thought, word and deed. Please let me be a role model for my children, and encourage them to keep me honest. I want to be accountable to my family as well as you, that I may live as worthy a life as possible. Amen.

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