“It is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (Mark 7:15)
My mother taught me to always wash my hands before dinner. “And use soap!” she would say. She didn’t want any dirt or germs from my hands getting into my mouth while we were eating.
The Pharisees were also careful about washing their hands before eating. But in those days they didn’t know about germs; their handwashing laws had to do with spiritual holiness. So when they asked why Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash, it wasn’t about hygiene; they were looking for a way to criticize Jesus, as if to say that he and his disciples were not spiritually holy.
Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach. Spiritual impurity isn’t about what is on our hands or what goes through our digestive system, he said.
Where does spiritual impurity come from? Our spiritual impurity comes from our sinful hearts. And then Jesus listed several examples. Handwashing could not take away greed, deceit, sexual immorality, hatred, and much more.
We can try to obey all the regulations, cultural values, and expected behaviors in our society — most of which are for the good of everyone. And we can believe all the right doctrines and try to live pure lives — which can be very important. But none of that will cleanse our hearts. Only Jesus can truly cleanse your heart.
Cleanse my heart, O God, and make me pure within. Thank you for the forgiveness and holiness that come only through Jesus. Amen.