What Really Makes
14Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16The food that you put into your mouth doesn't make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”
17After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18He answered, “Don't you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19It doesn't go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.
20Then Jesus said:
What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.
The problem with the Law was that it was so easily limited to behaviour modification. God’s constant lament against Israel was that they looked religious on the outside while mistreating the weak, the poor and the immigrant among them.
Jesus isn’t concerned with what foods you eat and whether you wash your hands before you touch it. I can almost hear him cry, “Can’t you see I designed a digestive system to handle that?” He’s concerned with the heart. Jesus made the same point in the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus took on a list of external sins and looked instead at the heart transformation that was needed.
- The solution isn’t to try to avoid murder; it’s to avoid anger (Matthew 5:43-48).
- The solution isn’t to avoid adultery and sexual immorality; it’s to avoid lust (Matthew 5:27-30).
- The solution isn’t to avoid coveting or envy; it’s to seek eternal investments rather than the attractions of earth (Luke 12:13-34).
- The solution isn’t to avoid deceit; it’s to know the Truth and be set free (John 8:31-47).
- The solution isn’t to avoid slandering others; it’s to dream up what we wish they would do for us and “pay it forward” (Matthew 7:12)
Jesus says external sin comes from evil thoughts, which come from an evil heart. If you don’t deal with the inward man, the inward woman, you will never be blameless before a blameless God.
Review those internal root sins again. Where do you feel your conscience pricking you? Have you allowed any subtle sins to creep in? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in your heart? Rather than denial, pursue the path of confession and forgiveness.
Righteous God, you are both judge and redeemer. Let me come to you as I am, full of deep-rooted sins that need your forgiving power. Only then will I be able to stand before you, wearing robes of righteousness. Because of Jesus’ death and in his name, Amen.