Recently, I became interested in finding out about the purity of the food I’m eating—because purity is important to me, when I eat at McDonald’s. I asked the question, “Are the french fries 100% potato?” Because sometimes I could swear I get cardboard fries in my box. It turns out they are potato—plus 18 other ingredients. CNBC says, “In addition to different oils, the list includes several chemicals that perform various functions, including ones that adds flavor, an anti-foaming agent that keeps oil from splattering, another aimed at keeping ‘the potatoes from going gray’ and preservatives.”[i] Turns out the fries aren’t really French, either—so there’s that. Then I asked, “Are the milkshakes made out of real milk?” Turns out, not exactly. According to Business Insider, they contain soft serve, something called “shake syrup,” and whipped cream. They also contain seaweed. But, to be fair, they don’t call them “milkshakes” anyway. They’re just “shakes.”[ii] While their burgers are (technically) 100% beef, last year, McDonald’s underwent a class action lawsuit because their “pure breast meat” patties also contain rib meat. Not that there’s anything wrong with eating that, but claiming pure breast meat makes the Artisan sandwich seem superior to the McChicken. That superiority allows Artisan customers the opportunity to pay more, and also lets them look down their noses at McChicken eaters.[iii]
Yes, truth in advertising is important, especially where false purity claims are concerned. Of all the people who drove Jesus bananas, the Pharisees were the worst at their false purity claims. And they loved looking down on the McChicken eaters. They demanded purity of everybody else, but found plenty of loopholes for themselves. For example, they were divorcing their wives (throwing them out on the streets) for any reason that suited them—including burning dinner, according to some accounts. They felt like that was okay, and that their purity was intact, as long as they gave the women certificates of divorce. Or they felt like they could make an oath and then break it, as long as they pulled a fast one on somebody like, “I swore by the gold on the altar, not the altar itself.” Or they said, “I’m not exactly committing adultery if I’m only doing (________).” But Jesus saw through their loopholes and their false purity. He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8[iv]).”
“Blessed are the pure in heart,” Jesus said. He knew all about their false shows of physical purity, how they liked to make their prayer shawls long so they flapped in the breeze as they waggled back in forth in prayer. He knew how they made a display of giving in the temple. He knew how they avoided being around the “wrong” kind of people, when it was those people who needed the most help. To Jesus, it was far more important that your heart be in the right place, than that you keep all the purity rules. In fact, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment (5:21-22).” It was far more important to Jesus that a person have a pure heart toward another person, than that they simply refrain from murder. It’s what’s in your heart that counts.
Instead of basing your purity laws on what you have and haven’t done with your sexual body, Jesus says true purity is when you get your mind straight and look at another person without a lustful spirit (vv. 27-28). Not that he was advocating physical adultery—but he was saying if you get one thing straight, the rest takes care of itself. Instead of basing your purity on which iota of the law you have kept, or on which loopholes you’ve found and exploited, base it on whether you have loved God and your neighbor with a pure heart. Then, Jesus said, you will see God.
See, the Pharisees were like McDonald’s—claiming purity for the world to see, just so people would say, “I’m lovin’ it!” But God wasn’t lovin’ it. And God’s not lovin’ it when we Christians think we’re pure simply because we have kept this or that law with our physical bodies, all the while our hearts are rotten on the inside. Jesus said sin’s in the heart. Get that right, and the rest takes care of itself.
I know, some of you will quote Psalm 24:3-4 to me (one of my favorite psalms, by the way): “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Pharisees would quote this verse, because they’re so fixated on clean hands. Modern Pharisees would quote it, because they’re so caught up in living sinlessly. But Jesus came to fulfill the purity laws in himself, to forgive all those times when we get it wrong, and to make them learning experiences for us. He came to give us pure hearts so we can see God.
Do you know how having a pure heart helps you see God? Jesus isn’t talking about God appearing to us out of the heavens, and he isn’t talking about the sweet by and by. When you have a pure heart, that becomes a lens through which you see other people. Then that person you hate becomes a bearer of God’s image. That person you’re lusting after becomes a picture of God to you. That person you’re jealous of becomes God in human form. When you have a pure heart, it changes the way you see everyone—it changes the way you see the world. And when you change the way you see the world, you change your reaction to the world. Then you can look around at this broken world, with all its problems. You can throw open your arms and say, “I’m lovin’ it!” Because that’s what God does.
[i] Little, Katie. “What are McDonald's fries really made of?” Published 12:39 PM ET Tue, 20 Jan 2015 Updated 3:18 PM ET Wed, 21 Jan 2015. . May 1, 2018.
[ii] Taylor, Kate. “The real reason why McDonald's calls its frozen drinks 'shakes' — and not milkshakes.” Jun. 7, 2017, 10:05 AM . May 1, 2018.
[iii] Campbell, Lucy. “McDonald's Chicken Purity Consumer Fraud Class Action Filed.” November 9 2017. . May 1, 2018.
[iv] Scripture quotations taken from the NIV.