He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”
Mark 7 opens with Jesus’ critics challenging Him because His disciples have eaten with unwashed hands. The dialog grows more heated as you listen to Jesus excoriate His opponents for focusing on all the wrong things.
Instead of concentrating on unwashed hands, they should have been concerned with unwashed attitudes. Instead of using tradition to mask their moral obligation to parents, they should have honored their commitment.
Rather than being concerned about the kosher law regarding food, they should have been concerned about developing a kosher (or clean) heart.
The opponents of Jesus looked better from the outside than the inside. A photograph would have made them look good. An X-ray would have given the opposite result.
Jesus drew the dialog to a close with a strong statement about what really defiles a person, what truly makes them ugly: It’s what comes from within. His list of thirteen evils is very similar to the fifteen acts of the sinful nature articulated by the apostle Paul (Galatians 6:19–21)—referred to also as the works of the flesh.
Have you considered seriously what sin does to the human personality? It brings disintegration rather than wholeness. Look at the difference with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 6:22–24). Fruit is singular, “works” is plural. Thus, the person living the Christ-life enjoys an integrated personality that blossoms with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In other words, the fruit of the Spirit all come together in a package. You don’t say, “Well, I’ll take joy, but I really don’t want patience or kindness.” But the “works” of the flesh or the “acts” of the sinful human nature don’t all come together in a bunch. An adulterer, for example, may not be a murderer. Or a deceitful person may not be a slanderer.
What unites wrong behavior is the attitude arising from the heart—evil thoughts. Thus, Jesus puts it first in His list of thirteen things that defile the insides. Where do sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly come from? They arise from evil thoughts.
What you think . . . is what you do . . . is what you say!
What a different world we would have if evil thoughts and actions all disappeared. However, the reverse is happening. In the past few decades, there’s been an alarming increase of all the bad things Jesus said cause personal defilement. And personal defilement reproduces exponentially into societal defilement. Right now we are witnessing the breakdown of morality and a sense of righteousness in the culture; we are becoming a civilization on the brink of collapse.
The poet William Butler Yeats described the breakdown as “the center cannot hold.” In other words, sin ultimately makes us fall apart—both as individuals and as a nation.
What’s the solution? Bringing our brokenness to the Lord and asking for a clean heart, for right attitudes that lead to right actions. It is Christ who fixes us with salvation, deliverance, and healing from the inside out.
A Prayer: Lord Jesus, I confess that I, too, have been defiled with evil thoughts that have led to sinful actions. Create a clean heart in me. Renew a right spirit within me.
Excerpted from Dr. Wood’s book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available from Vital Resources.