But their hearts...
Matthew 15:1-28 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
21 Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
In today’s text Jesus says: “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” We should not be mistaken. Jesus is not giving license to do whatever we please. He is not saying here that our actions are of no consequence. In condemning the hypocrisy of those who “honor Him with their lips,” keeping the traditions of man which align with their own preferences, while their hearts are far from Him, Jesus is not saying that it does not matter what we do. He says: “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man.” Both sin and righteousness are first matters of the heart, but it is the outward works of our hearts, our thoughts, words and deeds which defile us. In condemning hypocrisy, Jesus does not condone those who openly hold to sin.
Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, who says: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Likewise, this is not saying that we should not honor God with our lips. We should praise God, worship Him, give thanks to Him. Jesus taught us to pray saying: Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name… It is right that we honor God with our lips. The but their hearts are far from Me, does not make it an either or, either with our lips or our hearts, rather we are to honor God in both. The psalmist gives us the answer. He says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) Then as our hearts are aligned with His heart, the psalmist says: Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light. Out of a heart aligned with God’s heart righteousness will come forth as light. If we are truly followers of Christ, then we should be followers in thought, word and deed. Our lives should fulfill what Jesus says in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus says: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.“ (Matthew 22:37-38) With all that we are, with all that we do, with all that we think and believe, not either in our hearts or with our words and actions, but with all.
Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.