Strive to be Pure of Heart

Mark 7: 14-23
1Kgs 10:1-10 / Psa 37

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come …
(Mark 7:21)

Lord Jesus, come live within me,
And make all impure thoughts depart;
I do desire to be sin-free,
Help me strive to be pure of heart.

Again Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After He had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples asked Him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” He asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-23)

Reflection

The anger of the Pharisees and scribes must have really come to a boil when Jesus gave this important lesson about the real source of defilement. “It is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” This is because this elitist Jewish sect, through their rituals and external forms of worship would have the people believe that they were pure and clean, when in fact deep in their hearts they were harboring evil (like plotting to kill Jesus). Jesus called them hypocrites, and “like whitewashed tombs. . . beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean..” (Mat.23:27).

The disciples were genuinely puzzled by this parable because like all good Jews, they had long upheld the tradition of the elders regarding these purification rituals that the Pharisees imposed on them, and believed that there were many things in their environment, including certain foods that could defile them, which made these rituals necessary. Now here was the Lord Jesus debunking all of them as nonsense! St. Paul, a former Pharisee and once a rabid believer of the Jewish traditions, said in his letter to the Philippians: “I consider everything a loss (his former Judaic beliefs) because of the supreme good of knowing Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own based on the law, but that which comes from faith in Christ—the righteousness from God on the basis of faith.” (Phil.3:8-9)

While it may be true that corruption and wickedness are all around us, especially influenced by pornographic media, drugs and poverty, the words of Jesus still ring true today as they did thousands of years ago: evil does originate from the heart – but only from the heart of one who has turned away from God’s Word, and spurned His discipline. Scripture warned: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov 4:23). The prophet Jeremiah said: “Cursed is the one whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jer 17:5). Jesus Himself said, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5) Brothers (and sisters), “it is God’s will that (we) should be sanctified: that (we) should avoid sexual immorality; that each of (us) should learn to control our own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.” (1Thess 4:3-5) “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe (ourselves) with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Rom 13:13-14) “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Eph 4:18) “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Gal 5:16-17) Let us strive to be pure for Christ.

Dear God, we thank You for the guidance and inspiration that You have provided for us in Your Scriptures. May they keep us always in the right path, pure and undefiled, so that we may be worthy to enter Your presence, with the angels and saints in Your kingdom. Amen.

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