The Scriptorium

The Primacy of the Heart

The heart is the heart of the matter. Matthew 15.

Matthew 15: True and False Faith (3)

Pray Psalm 138.1-3.
I will praise You with my whole heart;
Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.
In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
And made me bold with strength in my soul.

Sing Psalm 138.1-3.
(Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
I will give You thanks and praise You, God of gods, with all my heart.
I will bow before Your temple, grateful praise to You impart.
For Your Name and for Your glory, You have magnified Your Word!

Read Matthew 15.1-20; meditate on verses 15-20.

1. What defiles a person?

2. Where do such things originate?

Prompted by Peter, Jesus elaborates on His “food-in/food-out” parable which offended the Pharisees. It turns out He wasn’t really talking about food at all; or, rather, He was talking about food to talk about character.

He is blunt: The food you eat goes through the digestive process, and whatever is not used in the body is eliminated. Everybody got that, I’m sure.

Now Jesus peels back the wrapping of His metaphor. The mouth becomes a symbol for the whole soul and body of a person (v. 18 – a device known as synecdoche). It represents our thoughts (the mind), our speech (false witness, blasphemies), and evil works (murders, etc.). And these are not meant to be inclusive, but merely representative. What comes out of the mouth – the soul and body of a person – originates in the heart (v. 18), which is the seat of our affections, and where desire operates to lead us to say and do what we say and do. The heart has the primacy in the soul and thus in the life (cf. Prov. 4.23).

If our heart takes in falsehood – like the transgressive traditions of men – so that we love and honor and cherish such things above all else, they will produce negative fruit in our speech and deeds. Jesus leaves the positive part of this parable unspoken, as if He did need to turn the coin over and say, “On the other hand…”

And the other hand is, that if we take into our soul and body those Kingdom aspects of mercy, righteousness, meekness, and truth, then these will produce wisdom, and wisdom bears its fruit in good works (Matt. 11.19). It is instructive that Jesus did not complete the parable. He was trying to help His followers understand (v. 16), so naturally He would leave some thinking and concluding to them. What comes out in our thinking, being, and doing will tell us what’s in our heart, and whether the state of our heart is “garbage-in/garbage-out” or something more conducive to faith, wisdom, and good works.

So stay away from spiritual and moral “junk food.” Seek the pure milk and solid food of the Word of God, and feed on it daily. Then you will bear the kind of fruit that indicates that you really do know Jesus and love Him (Matt. 7.21-23).

1. Why do we need to understand that the heart has the primacy in the soul? How does what we desire affect what we think (mind)? Or what we value (conscience)?

2. Defilement occurs not by what goes into the soul, but what issues from it. Explain.

3. The Word is our spiritual food. What are the components of the “spiritual digestive process”?

“Out of the heart,” he said, “come evil thoughts.” Therefore the soul or principle of action is not in the brain according to Plato but in the heart according to Christ. Jerome (347-420), Commentary on Matthew 2.15.19

Lord, help me to trust You in every situation, especially today as I…

Pray Psalm 138.4-8.
Make sure your heart is clean before the Lord. Then dedicate your heart for this day to loving and serving Him.

Sing Psalm 138.4-8.
Psalm 138.4-8 (Regent Square: Angels from the Realms of Glory)
On the day I called You answered, made me bold within my soul.
When I walk in troubled places, You revive and make me whole.
For Your hand will gently shield me, and my fearsome foes control.

All the kings of earth will praise You when Your words of truth they hear.
Of Your ways, of Your great glory, gladly they will loudly cheer.
For the proud shall not approach You, yet You hold the lowly dear.

Your Right Hand will save and keep me; all I need You will supply.
For Your love is everlasting, reaching from beyond the sky.
You will not forsake or leave me; You will save me when I cry.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore