“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” Matthew 15:18
In Matthew 15 we find Jesus having a clash with the Pharisees. The religious elite of the day were starting to feel under threat from the radical liberating message of the Kingdom that was shaking up their status quo. So they come to Jesus with an objection to the behaviour of His disciples, who they feel had been acting in an impure way.
The Pharisees claimed to hold God’s law in utmost regard. In fact, they liked it so much they had added their own set of sub-laws and regulations to ensure that not only would they not break God’s laws but also that they wouldn’t even get close to breaking the laws. And they added in a whole multitude of traditions designed to show off their devotion to God and enable others to see how pure and holy they were.
But the Pharisees had totally missed the point of the law. It was meant to show that our own efforts would always fall short, and was designed for our protection, to keep us from behaviours that would harm us or those around us. In a similar way to parents putting up a fence at the bottom of the garden to stop their children running onto the road God gave the Law to stop His children running into harm. But the Pharisees, in a bid to show off how pure they were, put up secondary and tertiary fences so that most of the garden ended up fenced off. And in their devotion to the Law and their traditions the Pharisees had missed the heart of God. They had ignored the words of the prophets. They had neglected God’s call to justice, mercy and love. They focused on looking pious, pure and holy rather than living as ones who were pure and holy. They paid lip service to God, but there was no Kingdom fruit in their lives.
And Jesus calls them out on this, saying “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me; teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” Matthew 15:7-9.
The Pharisees had come to Jesus outraged at what they perceived as impure behaviour. The disciples had broken the tradition of the elders and not washed their hands when they ate. The Pharisees had devised rules not only about when to wash their hands but also how much water to use, how much of the hands to wash, all sorts of excessive rules designed to show off how pure and holy they were by following them.
But Jesus isn’t interested in this false, self-promoting fake purity. He came to call us to Kingdom purity. He rebukes them saying “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person…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 comes 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 15:11,17-20.
Jesus tells us that it is the heart attitude that matters. As Kingdom people we must keep our hearts pure in order to avoid being defiled. We are called to live with real genuine deep purity, not a superficial outward facade of purity that is really just a whitewashed tomb with deadness at the centre. We are called to live with the purity that comes from being redeemed by the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross.
The Kingdom life is not one of looking pure and showing off how holy we are; it is a life of actually being pure. A life of fixing our thoughts not on evil things but on whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. A life where we don’t just pay lip service to God, but rather worship Him with our lives. A life of integrity. A life of compassion. A life where we don’t focus on the small points like hand washing but where we focus on the big issues – loving justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly before our God.
God knows our heart. he knows our motives. He knows our deepest, most secret thoughts. We cannot fool Him. We may be able to put on a good act of purity to those around us, but God knows if we have hearts that are genuinely pure and love Him. There is no place in the Kingdom for anything that is defiled, so if you are not living with Kingdom purity call on Jesus to wash your crimson stains white as snow through the power of His blood, to heal your heart and make it pure so you may live with Kingdom purity today.
” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
- Do you focus more on religious traditions or on seeking true Kingdom purity?
- How does it make you feel when you ponder than God looks through our outward appearance and see what is on our heart? Why?
- How do we live with the purity that comes from being redeemed by the blood of Jesus?