There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. – Mark 7:15
Pharisees had come to trick Jesus into saying something that would “trip Him up” because His disciples didn’t keep with the elders’ traditions of washing their hands before eating, which was a custom they taught as doctrine over the actual Word of God. Jesus rebuked them for praising God with their lips but having hearts far from God, just as the prophet Isaiah had said centuries before. Jesus then went on to say that things “unclean” entering a person’s mouth do not make the person “unclean.” It is the things that proceed out of the mouth that make a person truly “unclean” (or unholy).
Since Jesus said that food entering the mouth doesn’t make a person unclean, He nullified the kosher diet and declared all foods “clean” and suitable for eating. He defined food as such because food enters the mouth, passes through the digestive tract, and exits the body as waste. It is merely food, nothing else. It is temporal and not of a spiritual basis. Jesus concerns Himself with what the hearts conjures up and delivers out of the mouth of its creator. These vile things are what pollute (or defile) a person because they originate within a person and truly expose the innermost parts of a person.
Let’s look at a following verse in this passage in which Jesus explains the meaning of His discussion to the apostles. He says, For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man (Mark 7:21-23). The Jews were so concerned with not defiling themselves with “unclean” things that they took it to include unwashed utensils and articles of food. The Mosaic Law forbade the touching and handling of “unclean” things, but that was more of a ceremonial uncleanness. If the person followed the steps contained within the Law, they would be “unclean” only until that evening after having bathed themselves. The cleansing was an outwardly act and had nothing to do with the heart of the person affected.
Jesus concerned Himself with the condition of the person’s heart. Was the person “unclean” because of eating with dirty hands? Or, was the person defiling himself through sinful thoughts, words, and deeds that all started in the very heart of that person? To grasp the message Jesus taught, we have to revisit His words to the prophet Samuel when he went to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel to follow Saul. Samuel reviewed each of Jesse’s sons as would a general of his troops prior to battle. He examined each one and assessed each son based on his physical appearance. God passed on every son of Jesse that was present. Therefore, the prophet asked if there were any more sons. David was absent; he’d been tending sheep in the fields. When he came before Samuel, God said David was the one. Why? Because God looked on the “heart” of David as compared to his brothers.
Men look on the outward appearance and pass judgment, but God looks on the heart. Thus, we can see why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for concerning themselves with outward appearances only and leaving the weightier matters of cleaning out their hearts undone. Their hearts were full of evil and sin. Elsewhere, Jesus said they were like a bunch of whitewashed tombs that looked “clean” on the outside but were full of dead men’s bones. So, we have to ask ourselves a question. Are we playing the role of hypocrite to the world around us by acting like we’ve got it all together on Sunday but living lives of sin Monday through Saturday? Are our hearts pure and clean before God? Or, is there sin existing within us?
It would behoove us, all, to take a deep look inside ourselves and assess the situation. The book of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God exposes our innermost thoughts and feelings. Thus, we need to allow God’s Word to be the metric by which we assess the condition of our hearts. It will tell us if we are truly clean or unclean. If there is any defiling thing within us, we need to confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness. When we do so, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
Father, please show me, according to Your Word, where there are unclean things in me that defile me. Is it in my thoughts, my speech, or in my deeds? I know that I’m not perfect, but I can strive to be more like You and do as the Word instructs, to not touch the “unclean” thing and put away sin from me. You call us to be holy (clean and undefiled) as You are holy. Therefore, I want to be not a hearer but a doer of the Word and cleanse my heart of all impure, defiling things. Help me, Dad. I can’t do it on my own. Help me to treat others the way I want to be treated. I need You! Thank You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.