And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
(Matthew 15:10-20 ESV)
Yesterday Jesus schooled a group of Pharisees about their man-made rules which did not lead people to God, as they claimed, but actually lead people away from God. This all happened in front of a crowd of people. Today Jesus speaks to the crowd so that they understand what they had just witnessed.
“Hear and understand” was a common idiom of the day which simply meant “listen carefully”. What Jesus was about to say was not hard to understand – as we’ll see it is quite simple. Rather, what Jesus is about to say would have been shocking to the Jews in His audience. It essentially nullified large sections of the law given to Moses as recorded in Leviticus. The Jews had lived by this law for centuries.
The Pharisees confronted Jesus because His disciples did not perform the elaborate, ceremonial hand-washing that the Pharisee’s law required. This washing was thought to purify the hands so that any food the person touched would not be defiled and make the person spiritually unclean when eaten. But Jesus explains that the truth was that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.
Jesus was telling the people not to be misled by the foolish traditions they had been taught. No ritual, including the practice of washing their hands, could in any way prevent them from being defiled before God because people are inherently defiled from within, not circumstantially defiled from without.
All human beings are sinners. None of us are any good [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10]. That is an internal problem. It is a problem with our hearts – our spirits. It is because our hearts are corrupt that we have evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness (lying) and slander.
There is nothing we can do that will improve our spirit. Not confession. Not charity work. Not transcendental meditation. Not yoga. There is no way for a human being to make themselves right with God through their own effort. The physical cannot improve the spiritual. Only God, who is spirit, can fix our hearts [Psalm 51:10, Ezekiel 36:26].
Anyone who teaches people to follow man-made rules to get to heaven is blind. Likewise, anyone who follows such a person is blind. Such teaching was not planted by God – it was invented by man – and as such will be rooted up in the last days. Ultimately, those who follow such erroneous teachings will fall into a pit – they are destroying their eternal future.
God calls anyone who trusts in themselves for salvation a “fool” [Proverbs 28:26]. Such people think they are good and are making themselves better when they are actually bad and are making themselves worse. They appear on the outside to be righteous, but are anything but. God knows their hearts and knows what they really are.
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