Hypocrisy and Man-Made Rituals
In Matthew 15:1, some Pharisees came to Jesus and ask him why his disciples broke the ritual of washing before eating. Jesus wastes no time in calling them out on their hypocrisy. He points out to them that the frequently break one of the ten commandments. Rather than supporting their elderly parents, the Pharisees created a loophole (or thought they did); by claiming that their money and belongings were a gift to God, they didn’t have to give it to their parents. Jesus tells them this clearly breaks the commandment to honor your mother and father. Since the Pharisees break a God-given rule, why should Jesus’ disciples have to follow a man-made ritual?
After the Pharisees left, Jesus called the people to him and and said the following:
“Listen and understand. What goes in someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
Later, Jesus’ disciples go to him and tell him that the Pharisees were offended by his message to the crowd. In response, Jesus delivers another parable:
“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
What Jesus means here is that every ritual made by man doesn’t have to completed, because God didn’t create them. They’re man-made, and thus have no ‘roots’ in God’s kingdom. Jesus adds that religious leaders who create such rituals are blind, and their followers, who in following a blind leader are also blind, will be led astray.
What Makes Us Unclean?
In Matthew 15:18, Jesus tells his disciples that only the things that come from a person’s heart can defile them. Nothing we eat or drink can defile us. Only our words, thoughts, and actions can defile us, because they come from our hearts.
For out of the heart comes evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.
Jesus is very clear here: not following man-made rituals does not make someone unclean or unworthy. It is not a sin. It’s what is in your heart that can make you unclean.
A Pure Heart
Jesus has said in no uncertain terms that our thoughts and actions result from an unclean or impure heart. So how do you make sure you have a pure heart?
- Read and meditate on God’s Word. In John 15:3, Jesus tells us “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you”.
- Have faith. In Matthew 9:20, a woman who simply touched Jesus’ cloak was healed, simply because she believed it would happen.
- Pray. Look at Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” If you look to God, he will purify your heart.