Matthew 15:10-11 says, “When He called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man’” (NKJV). In order to understand these verses we need to keep in mind two things:

1) Before Jesus Christ presented Himself to the nation of Israel as their Messiah they were under the Mosaic Law and there were certain foods that would defile a person if they ate them. In Leviticus 11 God instructed Moses to tell the children of Israel what they could or could not eat. In verses 4-8 we have a sample of animals that were unclean: “Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you.”

2) The scribes and Pharisees added to the law by saying if one didn’t wash their hands in an elaborate cleansing process (that included washing their arms up to their elbows), they would be defiled. We see this in Matthew 15:1-2, “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread’.”

In our Lord’s words in verses 10-11 He is informing the people that they were no longer defiled by anything that they ate. In these few short words the Lord is looking forward to the new age which was dawning, the “Age of Grace,” where the Law, with all its forms and ceremonies, would be set aside. His death on the cross would usher in this new age and those who believed on Him as their Savior would live by the principle of “grace” and not “law.” Of course these words also rebuked the elders of the people for adding their traditions to the Law and He was making it clear to them that the Law, with its strict rules regarding ceremonial defilement, was no longer in force.

Then the Lord added something that was crucial, “But what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” What did He mean by that? Verses 18-20 provide the answer: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” The “heart” in this passage is speaking of the fallen and corrupt nature of man. In Jeremiah we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” From this polluted source proceeds all the sinful things mentioned in verse 19 and the Lord says emphatically, “These are the things which defile a man.” The scribes and Pharisees were so scrupulous when it came to observing “outward ceremonies” and yet all the while their “inner lives” were totally corrupt and this was manifested in the various sins outlined by the Lord. We see the very same thing all around us today, for men and women are taken up with outward forms like “going to church” or “observing the sacraments,” yet as soon as they leave their place of “worship” their lives betray their unregenerate hearts by what we read in verse 19. The only solution to this defilement is found in Jesus’ words to a religious Pharisee in John 3:3, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the kingdom of God’.” We need a New Birth which results in a NEW HEART, for then, and only then, will we be able to stop the flow of defiling things that proceed out of the OLD HEART. Have you, dear reader, experienced this New Birth?  (211.9)  (DO)