15 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]” 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
I really love driving analogies, as I often feel God speaks to me when I’m driving to work or driving home. This passage reminds me of speed cameras.
The purpose of a speed camera is to keep everyone on the road at a safe speed so that there’s less chance of accident or injury. But let’s say I was so focused on going under the speed limit that I wasn’t focusing enough on the road, and ended up hitting a pedestrian. I couldn’t then argue “but I was going the legal speed!” Similarly, if I found myself in a position where going over the speed limit meant avoiding injury, I believe I’d do it in a heartbeat – even if it meant getting fined.
This passage speaks about the importance of the condition of our heart. Jesus powerfully explains to both the Pharisees and the disciples that it’s not meticulously following the rules and regulations that is the end goal, but having a healthy heart. In fact, having a healthy heart leads to us living in wisdom and obedience to the rules. Proverbs 4:23 sums it up well – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
If the dominant purpose of my life is to follow all the rules and tick all the boxes, I’m going to end up hitting a pedestrian. I definitely want to live my life in obedience to God’s commands, but the first step is to surrender my heart to Him afresh each day. For it is not my effort, but God’s grace, that will enable me to live right.
So Lord, have my heart. Examine it, search it, and reveal what You find. Remove what’s bad, heal what’s hurt, and fill it with Your goodness. Amen.
Written by Matt Samperi