And Jesus called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:14-23
On another occasion Jesus spoke of the danger of opening oneself up to the influence of an evil spirit:
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” – Luke 11:24-26
There is a grave danger to our souls when we allow evil influences to enter our hearts, and guide our minds. But evil does not come in the form of certain foods. Evil does come, however, in the form of ideas, thoughts, words, and pictures that enter our minds, and shape our hearts. This is the grave danger of feeding ourselves mentally, emotionally, or spiritually on things not pure. Paul writes:
…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9
Issues around certain proscribed foods had little to do with dietary considerations or health concerns. Certain things were considered unclean, and spiritually-damaging, causing a person to be unclean. The Jews were prohibited from eating things like pork and shellfish. When Jesus declared all foods to be clean, he opened a way of freedom that we embrace today with little second thought. Sadly, however, we too easily also embrace a freedom of thought that allows ideas and convictions to enter unexamined, never stopping to consider whether what we offer is true to God’s word, or appropriate for one who professes to follow Christ.