Jesus Teaches About Inner Purity
Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”
Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ ”
Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”
Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” Matthew 15:1-20 NLT
My Thoughts: As I read through this lesson two words jump out to me: ‘honor’ and ‘speak.’
Honor: Did my conscious tweak a bit when I read the accusation given to the Pharisees about honoring their parents? Yes it did and I bet yours did too.
Who among us hasn’t said an unkind or disrespectful word about their parents? When we are young adults we tend to believe our parents are old fashioned or clueless about the world and we treat them as if everything they say has no value.
Hilariously, when we have children of our own, our perspectives often take a sudden about-face, wouldn’t you agree? We might find ourselves putting the brakes on our free spirit and reckless habits to jump into that old fashioned parental role to protect our babies. When we spend a long night with a crying baby we might suddenly realize we are the ones who are clueless!
Who do we usually call first? Our parents! I will gladly admit that my Mother and my pediatrician helped me raise my first child because I was too young and clueless to do it without their help!
But then there is the ‘sticky wicket’ about honor and my earthly father. In my testimony I reveal that my father was an abusive alcoholic. I certainly never called him for advice when he was alive. In fact, I rarely spoke about him to anyone except to say he was deceased. I typically ended the story about him right there because of my shame for him. On the rare occasion I would say something about him my words held no honor. To this day I refer to him by his given name and not as father or dad.
I have been a believer since the year 2000—for nineteen years—and this is the second time this year that I have had convictions about how I honor him. Can I tell you that I am confused but am beginning to wonder if the Lord is pricking my heart to let me know I may still be harboring some unforgiveness? I absolutely know that it matters as much to God what I harbor in my heart as well as what I say. God tells us:
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14
Are my thoughts, my habits, and my actions about this man pleasing to God? This is a difficult and painful question for me!
There was a time in my life that hate for this man burned deep in my heart and I kept it stoked and alive. Then I heard a message taught on forgiveness and I realized the only one who was getting hurt was me. I had been dragging that hatred around since I was a small girl up into my forties and the man had been dead since I was twenty-one! I think it’s clear that I was the only one being hurt at this point by my unforgiveness! This is not a proud confession, but perhaps someone reading this blog is also harboring unforgiveness too? If you are, I encourage you to get professional help and walk through the process of letting it go, because we all deserve to be free from that burden!
So where do I go from here? How do I find a way to honor this man who did such despicable things to me and to my family? Perhaps I start by seeking memories that might show me that he did something right?
Suddenly a memory just flooded my thoughts as I type these words:
I was in the first grade and a teacher had ridiculed me in front of the class for being left handed. She forced me to write with my right hand for the entire day and said she would do it every day until I finally learned to be right handed. It was a very difficult day and I cried a lot. We lived behind the school and I continued to cry as I walked home with my older sister. For some reason my father was home early and he questioned me about the tears. Taking my hand he walked me right back to the school. The teacher was still there and my father made it clear to her that she would never do that again. His words, “This child is getting her work done and making good grades so why do you care which hand she uses to do the job?” He not only took up for me he made me feel special because he knew I was doing well in school!
This memory allows me to have an honorable thought about my father! I think perhaps this is a start to help me break away from any remnants I may be harboring about unforgiveness! I’m kind of excited about that!
Before we go any further, if you have also been hurt by one or both of your parents, I’d like to share some words that healed my broken heart: I am so sorry. I never heard those precious words until I heard that teaching about forgiveness. (See my story in “The Power of Words” a two part blog in July 2018 Part 1: https://tinyurl.com/yxnwhrge and Part 2: https://tinyurl.com/y28d4zlv.) More important than what I say is what God has to say about your pain:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” Mark 9:42 NIV
“Doing wrong leads to disgrace, and scandalous behavior brings contempt.” Proverbs 18:3
Beloved, I don’t know all the answers but as I write today I can see the Lord wants me to unravel some things about my past that will allow me to be obedient to a very important commandment about honor. I hope you will join me in taking a good hard look at yourself to see if you have some things you need to work on too.
Speak: Oh dear…, this one hit me right in the face too!! How often do I find that my words not only originate with ugliness in my heart but fall from my tongue to become a terrible sin of slander or disgrace? Let’s just say it’s often enough that I realize this must be corrected too! Yikes!
Let’s look at what Jesus said to the people: “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”
In addition to the words that come out of our mouth, what about when we use words on social media that defile others! Social media was created for us to keep up with each other and learn to be social yet we use it as the nastiest weapon in our arsenal of tools to hurt others. We have to stop! The word of God warns us:
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18 NIV
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 NIV
“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:10 NIV
As you can see, the Lord has a lot to say about the power of our tongue and this is the most important of them all:
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 NLT
The MSG Bible simplifies this verse even further:
“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 MSG
Bottom line: Jesus wants us to clean up and clean out our mouths! Are the words we speak helping to build others up or are we constantly tearing them down; finding fault with every little thing they do? Then Jesus says we are defiling ourselves when we do that!
“Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” Matthew 15:16-20 NLT
What if the words we spoke every day literally piled up around us wherever we went? Would our personal space have the smell of a sweet bouquet or would it smell more like a sewer?
Closing Prayer: Father God, I’m a little nervous but a lot more excited about our lesson today! I completely understand that I if take the time to unravel the areas that I need to bring honor and sweet words into my heart and life, I will not only be more enriched, but I will begin to look more like you! I praise your holy name for helping me to understand this truth! Father if there is one reading my blog today whose heart may be broken by pain from a parent or from careless and ugly words, I pray that you guide them to seek help from a professional and by reading your word that they may be healed and free from the burden of unforgiveness. Thank you Lord for loving us so much you left your Holy Word to guide us. Thank you Lord, for giving us your son, Jesus, that we may have forgiveness and everlasting life. Amen!!