In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus continues, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside of you can defile you by going into you. It’s what comes out of you that defiles you. (NLT: You are NOT defiled by what you eat, you ARE defiled by what you say and do.)” Jesus then left the crowds and went into a house to get away. Inside, His disciples asked Him what He meant. I think it’s interesting how the different translations tell of Jesus’ response:
TNIV = “Are you so dull?”
NLT = “Don’t you understand, either?”
“Nothing that enters you from the outside can defile you, for it doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” (Unless of course if you’re talking about cholesterol, but He’s not here).
“What comes out of you is what defiles you, for from within, out of your hearts, come:
- evil thoughts
- sexual immorality
- malice (NLT: Wickedness)
- lewdness (NLT: Lustful Desires)
- arrogance (NLT: Pride)
- folly (NLT: Foolishness)
All these evil things come from within…THEY are what defile you and make you unacceptable to God.”
So what we have here is sin which had originated on the hearts of the Pharisees. The problem though was not only their sin, but their focus, for they focused more so on their obedience to their traditions than on their obedience to God. And so with such a focus, they then accuse Jesus’ Disciples of religious uncleanliness because they were eating their food with dirty hands, which was not in any way connected with holiness or obedience to God, but a focus on their traditions. And so Jesus points out to them that unclean hands is a minimal concern, and recognizes that the real issue here is not dirty hands, but “clean/unclean”, “hearts vs. bodies”, “spiritual vs. tradition.
Tradition vs. Spiritual: The Pharisees were so focused on meaningless practices (their religious traditions) that they’d fallen away from God in their hearts (the topic of my past couple of posts).
Hearts vs. Bodies: God wants people whose hearts are pure, humble, and broken, not those full of pride and who give off the outer image of cleanliness, and are really the opposite inside (Inner devotion to God vs. outer devotion). This was a problem among God’s people for thousands of years (and still is today!). People would lie to God with their mouths (exact words found in a couple Psalms) and sin against Him with their actions, and this behavior originated in their hearts. See, what the Pharisees were doing was not new, but a continued sin from those of old, and they called it tradition. So technically-speaking, they were doing a great job of following tradition of their elders, only the tradition they were following was sinful.
Clean vs. Unclean: Jesus then brings it back to the food by saying that what and how they eat isn’t what the issue is, but what’s in their hearts. And just them accusing Jesus’ disciples as they were was a worse situation than eating with dirty hands, for it showed where their hearts were, and that they weren’t right with God. Then Jesus gave some examples (evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, folly). Remember, whenever we see a list of sins in the New Testament or by Prophets in the Old Testament (and yes, sometimes also in the Law of Moses), it’s often in response to the sin(s) being committed by those listening…not something just random…they’re being addressed. So these examples that Jesus gave were possibly some sins done in secret by those particular Pharisees and Teachers of Religious Law.
Understand also now, when we look at these sins, we might think, “Oh, well I’ve never had it in my heart to kill anyone,” or “I’ve never stolen anything.” Maybe not, but I’m sure we’ve all been struck by some of the others throughout our lives (greed, envy, pride, deceit, sexual desires, foolishness, etc.). For example, after reading this, I thought of a good friend of mine whose jokes and humor are often based upon sexual immorality. He’s also well-known by family and friends for such. You actually have to be careful about the adjectives you use in your sentences, for like the old Beavis and Butthead, my friend can take anything and turn it into something sounding sexual and/or perverted. So I’d talked with him about it about a week after I read this (and after I prayed about it). At first, he didn’t understand what I was talking about. But as I explained it more, he threw in the “male culture” thing. “Oh, that’s just a guy-thing. It’s what guys do”. No, because according to Jesus, it’s not a “guy-thing”, but a “sin-thing”, and the sin isn’t only something that comes from the mind and the mouth, but actually originates from the heart. So basically, this confirms what my wife says, that “All jokes are half-meant.”
It’s even worse if you’re committing (unrepentant) sin in secret and trying to look all holy in public (which is what it appears that the Pharisees and Teachers of Religious Law here were doing). You’ve heard the Bible say, “What’s done in secret will be revealed”? We’ve seen it with the Catholic Priests who sexually abused kids; we’ve seen it with the Protestant Pastors who embezzled their churches’ funds; we saw it in that Orthodox Jew in New York who killed that child who was just looking for directions home (2013); we’ve seen it with politicians and sports figures who sent private pictures to women (who were not their wives) via their phones; we’ve seen it with people who are caught for crimes they’d committed 50 years ago; we’ve seen it with celebrities who committed adultery against their spouses…people who have such unrepentant sin on their minds also have such sin in their hearts, and those who commit such sin do so because it originated in their hearts. And what comes from their hearts, influences (or plagues) their minds, as well as decides that which flows out of their mouths (words).
Basically, if you’re focusing on your outer image, and not concerned about the unrepentant sin, which originates in your heart, then you have a lot more to be concerned about than the traditions that somebody else is not following.