Matthew 15:1-20; Leviticus 24-25; Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:19-20 NKJV)
Some people are just wrong. On the outside, everything is perfect. All their hair is in place. Their pants legs are creased just right. Their color match is exquisite. Yet, the more you interact with them, the more your “trouble-meter” goes off, even though they don’t do anything wrong. You’re uncomfortable and, were you to share your sense of discomfort with others they’d call you crazy. Then, something happens: a coworker makes a mistake; a waiter brings the wrong food; someone bumps into them. That’s when your concerns are vindicated because mister or miss perfect suddenly explodes. They overreact and the minor issue results in a stream of abuse that leaves everyone around shaken. That’s the kind of situation I think Jesus was talking about here. The Pharisees were complaining that Jesus’s disciples weren’t following the pharisaic protocol for symbolic handwashing so they could let everyone knew how good they looked, and Jesus pointed out that even if they ate with dirty hands, it wouldn’t be as bad as the evil that flowed from the hearts of the Pharisees.
The first thing to note here is that Jesus is not saying, “don’t wash your hands.” If you’re an employee at a restaurant, you probably need to wash your hands more! (I’ve seen those videos for food handler permits.) Jesus is making the point that the outward signs of religion don’t change the heart. If those evil thoughts are dominating your life, you may need to draw closer to God; not wash your hands, not go to church, not take communion, or not get baptized. Our thoughts and our words in dealing with others need to be seasoned with grace so that all who hear us, all who put up with us, experience God’s grace no matter what they do right or wrong.
Lord, let the meditations of my heart and the words of my mouth bring honor to Your name. Let all that comes out of my heart and mouth reflect Your love and grace for others.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.