One of the things I like about Mark’s gospel is that he really doesn’t pull any punches. He doesn’t soften language to make things more cozy and comfortable and this passage is no exception. In the first part of Mark 7, Jesus is questioned about why he and his followers don’t follow the same rituals and traditions regarding washing before meals and Jesus just lays it out there. He fires back with, “Nothing outside you can defile you by going into you. Rather, it is what comes out of you that defiles you.” the disciples asked him about his response later and he responds the same way but adds, “19 For it doesn’t go into your heart but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) 20 He went on: “What comes out of you is what defiles you.21 For from within, out of your hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile you.”
I think this is Jesus way of saying, “The things that you are so worried about don’t really matter. You’re worried about whether God will be displeased if you don’t washing your hands in the right way before you eat, but God is not concerned with those kinds of petty things. What God really cares about is that you are arrogant… or that you are driven by envy… or any other kind of evil that is coming from you. No amount of hand washing is going to make any of that stuff right.”
Unfortunately, in many traditions (including sometimes my own) we continue to over concern ourselves with “right practice” and not enough with “right living.”
Help me today Jesus to see that which is coming from within me that is not glorifying to you. Give me the courage to offer the burden of evil in my own life to you, and today live in such a way that is a reflection of your presence and your goodness in my life.