The Garbage Within

Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17, Mark 7:14-23

There’s an old saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.”  I first recall hearing it in college in a course on social science research and data analysis.  The point is that the quality of the data yielded in a study is dependent on the quality of the sample, e.g. the degree to which it represents the population being studied, screening for biases, having a proper control group, etc. 

“Garbage in, garbage out” can apply in other areas, too.  If an athlete’s usual breakfast is a bag of chips, a can of soda pop and a donut, it’s unlikely that he or she will be able to perform at an optimal level.  If an executive is surrounded by “yes men” instead of those who may render more candid but necessary advice, it will be difficult for her to make good decisions.

In rejecting the Pharisees’ rigid adherence to dietary regulations, Jesus appears to reject the wisdom of “Garbage in, garbage out.”  But not quite.  His concern is a little more subtle:  We need to pay attention to the garbage within, i.e. the sins and vices that are deep within us but reveal themselves in all kinds of destructive and self-destructive ways. 

In three weeks, the Church will celebrate Ash Wednesday and begin another Lenten season.  It will be our annual time to very intentionally “get to the heart of the matter” of our humanity and our discipleship. 

We don’t need a special day or season to do that.  For most of us, it probably doesn’t hurt to do it every day. –JC