Mark 7:14-23 (ESV)

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 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.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Jesus now answered the question the religious leaders posed about why his disciples ate with unwashed or defiled hands. He called the crowd to gather around him and explained that the soul of a person cannot be defiled by food. Food prepared on Gentile surfaces, touched by Gentile hands, or even considered unclean, as not the real issue before God. Neither foods nor their preparation harm the inner man. Jesus wasn’t talking about germs and proper food handling techniques for the sake of health. Instead, he was talking about morality and sin. The disciples still didn’t get it. Food laws were an important part of their religious system. So Jesus gave them further explanation. He went on to discuss what does defile the soul of a person. The things in a person’s “heart” are what have the potential to cause moral harm. Jesus taught that one could “wash” her hands perfectly and practice all the ceremonial traditions, yet be unclean before God because her heart is evil. These evil things include the many sinful acts and attitudes that Jesus lists in verses 21-22. Moral contamination doesn’t come from the outside, but from the inside.

When we talk to people, we find many honestly think they naturally have “good” hearts. They assume they will be okay with God at the judgment and reason that “God knows my heart.” But based on what Jesus said, the fact that God knows the natural human heart should be a cause for terror and not hope. Whose heart hasn’t engaged in some, if not many, of the things on Jesus’ list? Who can say she has never coveted, or been envious or prideful or even foolish? According to Jesus, these are the things that defile a human. And yet somehow, many think God is “okay” with it all. Jesus worked hard to help those around him to understand that all people, even the religious leaders of the day, have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness that God requires. But there is hope! When we turn from our sin and trust in Christ, God promises to remove our heart of stone and give us a brand new heart of flesh. Praise the Lord for the heart surgery that only God can perform! If you are a Christian today, thank God that he has made your heart right before him.