And He (Jesus) was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.” - Mark 7:20
The Pharisees were masters at keeping up appearances. As if the Old Testament law wasn’t complex enough, they’d created a whole set of rules and traditions, called “fence laws,” intended to prevent Jews from breaking the Mosaic law. Their own traditions were so important to them, that they sometimes violated God’s law to keep their own.
Outwardly, the Pharisees looked spiritually healthy. Their lifestyles were above reproach! But inwardly, they had a serious heart condition.
This problem wasn’t unique to the Pharisees. I grew up with fence laws; no cards, movies, dancing, secular music… you get the idea. Maybe you did too, but the rules were different. It can be dangerous! We begin to think that if we follow the rules, keep up appearances, we’re doing okay spiritually. But God knows we sometimes have a serious heart condition.
That’s why Jesus said it’s the stuff that comes from inside that defiles us, makes us unclean. Our choices, our words, our actions are driven by what’s already in our hearts. If they’re corrupt, evil oozes out. If they’re clean, godliness overflows.
Go back to Mark 7:8, when Jesus is talking to the Pharisees. He tells them this: “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He says “commandment” not “commandments.”
I’m no theologian, but I think it’s safe to assume the one commandment Jesus is referring to is the greatest commandment, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
When our Savior is the great love of our hearts, He begins changing us from the inside out. He tidies up the defiled heart, room by room. Before long, the driving force behind our words and actions is our desire to honor God. And God is eager to help us! “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight.” (Psalm 19:14). Clean and transform my heart. Keep me from honoring you with my words but having a heart that’s far from you.