God, I want the peace that only you can bring. Teach me how to better understand and manage my emotions.
From the Heart
We all have one or more emotions that compete for control in driving our behavior. As adults, we’ve learned to monitor our behavior. But Jesus invites us to go beyond simply monitoring how we behave and to begin monitoring what’s going on inside of us.
Let’s learn more from Matthew’s account of his experiences with Jesus.
Jesus was with His apostles.
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” - Matthew 15:1–2
The tradition of the elders included an unwritten rule about a washing ritual that had to be done before eating.
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” - Matthew 15:3
Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy.
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” - Matthew 15:7–9
A crowd gathered, and Jesus 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.” - Matthew 15:10–11
The disciples asked Jesus to explain.
“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.” - Matthew 15:16–18
To be defiled is to be at odds with God. You are at odds with God when what comes out of your mouth puts you at odds with the people God loves. And what comes out of your mouth originates from your heart. Everything begins with a thought.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” - Matthew 15:19
When the Gospel writer Mark recorded the same conversation, he added other things Jesus mentioned: greed, malice, deceit, envy, arrogance, and folly.
These are the things that defile a person, putting you at odds with God. Skipping an elaborate washing ritual before eating? That’s not going to put you at odds with God. Religious rituals and traditions can be important and meaningful to us, but they are not a means by which we keep God happy and satisfied. We need to get better at monitoring our hearts so our emotions don’t become our boss.
Jesus followers already have a boss—a far better boss than anger, envy, greed, or lust. Jesus said to us:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” - Matthew 11:28
Jesus gives you something those inferior bosses can never give you—rest.
“…my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” —John 14:27
With the peace the world offers, you only have peace when everything is great on the outside. Jesus gives you peace on the inside, even when things aren’t so good on the outside.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” - Matthew 11:29
Jesus was saying: Follow me. Let me be the boss of you, and I will give you peace inside. I will give you rest.
What emotion competes for control of your life? Has it impacted your relationships in any way? Every day, the people closest to you are experiencing the overflow of your heart.