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.”
- Matthew 15:15-20
“Initially we trust in our ignorance, calling it innocence, and next we trust our innocence, calling it purity. Then when we hear these strong statements from our Lord, we shrink back, saying, ‘But I never felt any of those awful things in my heart.’ We resent what He reveals. Either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not worth paying any attention to. Am I prepared to trust the penetration of His Word into my heart, or would I prefer to trust my own ‘innocent ignorance’? If I will take an honest look at myself, becoming fully aware of my so-called innocence and putting it to the test, I am very likely to have a rude awakening that what Jesus Christ said is true, and I will be appalled at the possibilities of the evil and the wrong within me. But as long as I remain under the false security of my own ‘innocence,’ I am living in a fool’s paradise. If I have never been an openly rude and abusive person, the only reason is my own cowardice coupled with the sense of protection I receive from living a civilized life. But when I am open and completely exposed before God, I find that Jesus Christ is right in His diagnosis of me.
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
A couple of days ago, my wife and I were going to do a few bits of shopping, only two stores, but then my wife surprised me with a third stop for brunch. On the drive to the first one, a woman drove up the on ramp to enter the highway and then she came to a stop instead of merging onto the highway. I merged into the other lane, giving her plenty of room to get onto the highway. My wife asked why I had made such an abrupt lane change. I replied, “A stupid woman, who does not know how to properly use the acceleration lane, needs to get onto the road. Just being neighborly.”
As we drove past the grocery store, on our way to the cosmetics and hair care supply store, a woman stepped out in front of our car without looking. She was directly between crosswalks, so she was technically jaywalking. Twenty feet to either side, and traffic would have to yield to her. In fact, at both locations, there were stop signs. Again, my wife was not paying attention when I suddenly slammed on the brakes. She asked why. I replied, “A stupid woman did not use the crosswalk and did not look to see if traffic was clear. Just avoiding a possible manslaughter charge.”
At the restaurant for brunch, someone else did something bordering on the insane. I mentioned how stupid they were.
My wife replied, “It seems you are calling everyone stupid today. Do they really have a lack of mental capacity to learn or is something else wrong with you?”
My first reaction was “Ouch! That hurt.” Then I realized that each person along my path may not be stupid at all. They might have the capacity to learn, regardless of how unlikely it might be. I was the one being stupid. I knew the definition of each word, and I was using the wrong one. They, as far as I knew, were acting in an ignorant fashion, with a lack of knowledge, and I am sure, if calamity had struck, they would have used the ‘ignorance ploy’ in their defense.
Then I read my dose of Chambers a day or so later, and Chambers went from preaching to meddling, at light speed. Most preachers today avoid the meddling sermons, but Chambers comes from a different time, and I needed Chambers’ message.
The point is that we have a lot of thoughts in our heads that rarely become spoken words. Yet, God knows what is in our hearts. The ‘innocence ploy’ will not work on Him. The ‘I didn’t mean to’ ploy will not work either. He’ll rerun the tape and set the replay to what we were thinking, not what we said or did.
Now, were some of these people ‘stupid?’ It is highly possible. It seems no pedestrian in the Pittsburgh area looks at traffic. They think their ace in the hole is that they can sue you for millions. It never dawns on them that they might die. Is that stupid or insane? It is not ignorant, for they know what they are doing. They are well-practiced.
As for the woman stopping on the on ramp, she might have been scared. Fear and anxiety can create stupid behavior.
But what I was doing was inexcusable. I had just come back from having driven over 3000 miles on a vacation trek, and without a scratch on the vehicle. Even though I had been back for more than a week, the thoughts of all the close calls during that time had my anxiety level heightened. You would think that people would drive defensively these days. They know how crazy everyone else drives. They should drive safely out of self-preservation, but they don’t. Is that stupid or insane? It is not ignorant. If a police vehicle is visible, they all behave themselves and overcompensate by driving well below the posted speed limit.
In the end, we can only control our actions and our thoughts about the others around us. One of those thoughts must admit that we often think ill of those around us. Jesus was speaking the truth to His disciples in the Scripture above, and He was speaking to us. We should treat others with respect, even when their actions do not deserve it. For someday, they might need to return the favor when we are distracted, confused, or just not feeling well. In other words, when we are acting ‘stupid,’ or is it ignorant?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.