Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. Matthew 15:19
A rescue mission nicknamed “Operation Noah’s Ark” might sound fun for animal lovers, but it was a nightmare for the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After receiving complaints about the noise and the horrid stench coming from a certain house, workers entered the Long Island home and found (and later removed) more than four hundred animals from their neglected conditions.
We may not be holding hundreds of animals in filthy conditions, but Jesus said we might be harboring evil and sinful thoughts and actions in our hearts that need to be exposed and removed.
In teaching His disciples about what makes a person clean and unclean, Jesus said it isn’t dirty hands or “whatever enters the mouth” that defiles a person, but an evil heart (Matthew 15:17–19). The stench from our hearts will eventually leak out from our lives. Then Jesus gave examples of evil thoughts and actions that come “out of the heart” (v. 19). No amount of external religious activities and rituals can make them clean. We need God to transform our hearts.
We can practice Jesus’ inside-out ethic by giving Him access to the squalor of our hearts and letting Him remove what’s causing the stench. As Christ uncovers what’s coming from our hearts, He’ll help our words and actions be aligned with His desires, and the aroma from our lives will please Him.
Why is it important to take frequent inventory of your heart? How can you seek God’s help?
Loving God, my heart is desperately wicked. Only You can fully know it and remove the evil that’s in it.
For further study, read The Forgiveness of God.
When the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before they ate (Matthew 15:2), their concern wasn’t about physical cleanliness but their failure to follow an extrabiblical tradition that saw handwashing before meals as necessary for religious purity. This particular tradition was one the Pharisees were known for being meticulous about.
Although these religious leaders were highly respected and influential among the Jewish people, Christ responded with little concern at their offense. Instead, He dismissed them as blind guides whose priorities would only lead people astray (vv. 12–14, see vv. 6–9). Jesus’ warning that every plant not planted by the Father would be uprooted (v. 13) may echo the prophet Isaiah, who described God’s people as a vineyard cared for and planted by God but uprooted when they failed to live with justice and goodness (Isaiah 5:1–7).