What Defiles a Man?

Jesus said, “Listen and understand what I am saying. You are not defiled by what goes into your mouth. It is what comes out that makes you unclean” (Eyewitness Matthew 15:10,11).

Eyewitness: pp. 110,111
In Your Bible: Matthew 15:1-20

Rules and traditions were central to Jewish religion and culture. It seems as though Jesus didn’t obey many of these rules and traditions of man, because most were not of God at all! After the Pharisees challenged him, Jesus defined what truly defiles a man – evil things that you think and say.

Some Traditions Deviated

The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do your disciples violate the rules of behavior established by our ancestors? When they ate bread, they do not wash their hands?” (Eyewitness Matthew 15:2). I had always thought of this as God’s health precautions, but according to William Barclay (see below), it was of the oral Law.*

The Pharisees violated and ignored God’s commandments by following their own traditions. They nullified the commandments, to have their own way. He called them hypocrites. Eugene Peterson in THE MESSAGE, calls the Pharisees frauds in this passage!

Jesus Spoke to the Heart of the Problem

Jesus called the people closer. “Listen and understand what I am saying. You are not defiled by what goes into your mouth. It is what comes out of you that makes you unclean. If you have ears to hear, pay attention to what I am saying” (Eyewitness Matthew 15;10,11).

Simon Peter said, “How is it that the people are not defiled by what they eat? Explain your analogy to us” (Eyewitness Matthew 15:15).

Jesus said, “You still don’t understand? You should know that anything going into a man from the outside cannot make him unclean. What you eat simply passes through the stomach and out. But what comes out of a person [their mouth] is from the heart, revealing filth that exists inside” (Eyewitness Matthew 15:16-18). Your speech reveals what is in your heart.

Application: The Pharisees and teachers of the Law relied on rules and tradition as the basis for their religiosity. Jesus went straight to the point exposing that their speech or talk showed whether their heart was right with God.

Prayer: Father, let my words be ones you give. I want to please you. Your words are what I want to live.

Question: Have you ever been with people who fill the air with useless words? What do you do, when you are lost for appropriate positive words to say?

* Bible commentator William Barclay says this about traditions of the elders: To the Jew the Law had two sections. There was the written Law, which was contained in the scripture itself; and there was the oral Law, which consisted of the developments, such as those in hand-washing, which the Scribes and the experts had worked out through the generations; and all these developments were tradition of the elders, and were regarded just as much, if not more, binding than the written Law. From: The Daily Bible Study, The Gospel of Matthew, Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1953, 1956, p.114.

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