But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
We have such a way of making our traditions more important than what is the right thing to do. In other words, even in our church, we can make religion about rituals and routines and not about having a relationship with Christ, which is what is most important. The Pharisees and scribes had the forms or rituals down so much that they associated rituals with religion, and they were missing the point. When this happens, it’s very easy to judge others who aren’t doing things they way we are doing them, and then we judge them as inferior. I know I’ve done this mentally without doing it verbally, and I repented of it. The Pharisees and the scribes judged Jesus’ disciples as not following the ritual or tradition of washing their hands like they did (Matt. 15:1-2). They deemed them as unclean or unworthy because they weren’t doing things just like they did, and that is elevating the traditions of men over what God requires. They required of others that which even God didn’t require, making them self-righteous and judgmental and setting themselves up as superior.
Honoring God with the Lips
Jesus rebuked the religious leaders, saying that they honored God with their words, but they were substituting their own traditions for God’s law and making them preeminent or more important and making God’s law void (Matt. 15:3-6). That’s a very serious issue as far as God is concerned. Jesus quoted Isaiah 29:13, saying that they were honoring God with their lips, but their heart was far from God, and they were teaching their own doctrines of men and worshiping God in vain (Matt 15:8-9). The scribes were experts in the Scriptures. They must have known these verses and had to be angered over Jesus’ reference to them and applying them to themselves. This religious crowd had confused external cleanliness with internal purity, and these two are far from the same, as Jesus will explain.
What Defiles a Person?
Jesus clearly wanted His disciples and the religious leaders to know that it wasn’t what was on the outside that defiled a person, but what came out of their mouth (Matt. 15:10-11). In other words, a Jew would never eat pork, but they would judge others for not following their traditions and then deem them unworthy of God. However, what they didn’t understand was that what defiles the person is what comes out of the mouth and not what goes into the mouth, for what comes out of the mouth shows what’s in the heart (Matt. 15:18). The hands and arms might be clean, but inwardly there is the filthiness of wickedness residing in the human heart, and from the evil heart comes “evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander “ (Matt. 15:19). Which sounds worse? To eat with dirty hands or having murderous thoughts, adultery of the heart, lying, and so forth? The answer is obvious.
A Closing Prayer
Righteous Father, before I judge the religious leaders, please show me my own heart. I need to examine my own routines and rituals and make sure I’m not elevating them over what You require. Where I do this and fall short, please forgive me, and I pray in Jesus’ name.
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