A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line – Self-Serve


Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900). You can find other devotions, sermons, essays, services, articles, and announcements on The Cove Community

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Mark 7:20-23

[Jesus] said to [his disciples], “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”


Generally, I’m not particularly fond of self-serve restaurants. Although it costs a little more, I really like my food to be served to me. Maybe getting my own meal feels too much like home, and so when I go out, I want to get special treatment. Now, having said that, I recognize that one of the advantages of self-serve restaurants, you know, like cafeterias or buffets, is that you can create your own meal by choosing your own food. And that may be particularly important if you have allergies or some very specific tastes. In those cases, self-serve is great, because it gives you the freedom to pick and choose what goes on your plate and into your body.


But, even though this may have an application as it relates to food, it doesn’t really apply to sin. I mean, as Jesus said to his disciples, it’s really not what goes into the body that defiles. Rather it what comes out from us. In other words, although we might be extremely aware of what we take in and even though we may focus a lot of our attention on how certain external things might morally affect us, our greatest threat comes from within. It comes from evil thoughts and intentions, especially when those thoughts and intentions are given a religious veneer so that they might appear to be spiritual. You see, when we hurt our neighbor, when we ignore human need, when we lie to avoid trouble and slander folks we think deserve it, when we act as though God has appointed us judge and executor over those with whom disagree, all these actions and attitudes come from decisions that we’ve made, and these decisions are more defiling than anything we might consume. Of course, since we all have the potential to become truly evil in our words and work, we can also choose to serve God and neighbor rather than ourselves.