Sin in the Heart

When the Pharisees observe Jesus’ disciples eating with unwashed hands, they ask him why they do not follow the oral traditions of the elders. These were oral laws added to the Mosaic law in an attempt to prevent sin, and they stipulated that eating with unwashed hands defiled a person. Jesus’ two answers to their question reject the traditions of the elders as human inventions. First, he quotes Isaiah 29:13 and calls the Pharisees hypocrites because they give the outward appearance of scrupulous piety but have not surrendered their hearts to God. Jesus explains how the Pharisees nullify Scripture by elevating their traditions above it (Mark 7:8–13). Second, Jesus underscores the source of true godliness: “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” (v. 15). The first part of Jesus’ statement is transparent. Even if eaten with unwashed hands, food does not corrupt anyone. The second half of his statement is more obscure, and when he is alone with his disciples, they ask him to explain it. What we eat is not defiling, for it enters the stomach and is eliminated. Jesus thus declares “all foods clean,” abolishing Jewish food laws for Christians (v. 19). At the same time, he points to the true source of moral defilement—the human heart. It is the center of our being, and from it come thoughts, emotions, and actions that pollute us (v. 20). Jesus then gives a list of sins that flow from the heart: evil thoughts, all acts of sexual immorality, murder, adultery, coveting and theft, deliberate malice, treachery, jealousy, evil-speaking, pride, and foolishness (vv. 21–22). Theology for Life—The source of sin is within. Our unclean hearts defile our thoughts, speech, and deeds. We desperately need the cleansing and renewal of our hearts, which is what God gives us in Christ (Titus 3:5). May our grateful response be a desire to cultivate pure hearts by God’s enabling grace!

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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