“Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples… eat with defiled hands?’ And he called the people to him and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.’ And he said to them, ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled? What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’” Mark 7:1-2,5,14-15,18-23
The senses God has given us take in what is external, our eyes and ears especially keen on observing the errors of those around us. But Jesus has a peculiar and fascinating way of probing the heart and exposing what He cares about most. When the Pharisees nitpicked about externals, Jesus turned their argument inside out by inquiring about their internal, deeper condition. The defilement they saw was according to a tradition; the defilement He uncovered was according to natural man’s intention. Ouch.
Much human attention and energy is spent these days pointing out others’ faults, whether in the public arena or in our churches, work places, or own families. Unconsciously or not, we castigate others to make ourselves look good, we degrade and put down to elevate our egos, how we want others to feel about who we are and what we do. We fixate on small externals in others while ignoring the big internals in us, and Jesus will not have it. True defilement is all that is visible and invisible that dishonors Him and diminishes the value of His image-bearers. Considering Jesus’ list in these verses shines a penetrating light on our deepest motives, but He bids us come clean. (Matthew 7:3)
What do I push down and cover up because I don’t want to face dealing with it? Do I really desire purity, or am I smugly content to rock on in perceived superiority over others? Will I ask the Spirit to identify and extricate evil thoughts that have taken root and grown into ugly, horrible attitudes and behaviors that defile not only relationships, but the portrayal of Christ in me to the world?
Guard me from deflecting my own defilement, O God. Make me willing and grant me courage to look within, and deal with all that is heinous. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Amen. (Psalm 51:1-2,6,10)