Mark 7:21-23 NAS
21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Once again the day’s religious leaders confront the Lord. This time they are questioning why He allows certain behaviors of His disciples. Evidently, they were confused (if you can call it that) as to why the traditions of the elders were not regulated closer by Him. Specifically they asked, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?”
My purpose in writing is not to go into the intricacies and innuendos of what the tradition of the elders meant verses the commandments of God, I want to focus on what motivated these men and learn not to fall into the same troubling attitudes. The fact these religious leaders took umbrage to some of His disciples’ lack of care in washing is telling in its own right. It wasn’t an obsessive, compulsive disorder about cleanness they had; it was a prideful, superior disease of self-righteousness. To off-handedly demand Jesus teach respect and reverence toward a tradition they had grasped so carefully was a sheer display of pride. To condemn so immediately individuals who they perceived as having a lack of concern for defilement was a complete act of prejudice! The pride and prejudice that owned these religious leaders had to originate from somewhere. The verses I began with are the words the Savior uses as he explains to his disciples specifically what was producing these attitudes.
I named this little section “Of Pride and Prejudice”—which, as many of you know, is the name of Jane Austin’s book and a movie from the book. Frankly, I’ve never read the book and I’ve only seen in bits and pieces the movie when it’s watched around the house. So I went online to try and figure out why Jane Austin’s book is called “Pride and Prejudice.” I thought the bible had many different interpretations. There are no bounds to the many different opinions on why this book is named Pride and Prejudice. A novice, like myself, can in no way grip the significance of the title. The closest thing I could determine was the book’s name is based on the first impressions that Elizabeth and Darcy had of each other when they first met. Evidently, they had it settled in their minds what each was like and had to work through their own pride and prejudice to fall in love. I hope I’ve got it right!
These two themes run together in this passage. They cloud things up and prevent people from seeing the truth of what Jesus was like. Sadly we see these attitudes not just in the Pharisees, but at times they are also found in the 12 closest men, men committed and following the Lord. These two attitudes have to come from someplace. Again, my hero verses:
NAS – 21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
There they are! Pride and prejudice comes from the depth of men’s hearts. These are not the overt acts of animosity but nuanced behaviors of hate. They look righteous and holy, but really are pretentious and pompous. The men displaying these attitudes should know better. Instead they are bent on making their ways right and imposing the same attitudes upon others. No wonder they were such cynics. Sounds fairly contemporary does it not?
The only means to eradicate these attitudes is by changing the heart. That is exactly what Jesus is in the business of doing. We see Him confronting, without compromise, these two attitudes. He uses a parable to display His point. “There is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” The person of faith hears these words and agrees. There is an understanding of the inward work of Christ in the heart and then affirmation is easily made.
However, please remember He is speaking to Jews, and they had been taught their whole lives that things outside the body defile the things inward. That is exactly what religion teaches! It’s what you do outwardly that is significant and hopefully it helps the inward. Again, the disciples themselves struggled with the meaning of this concept; they were good Jews like others, they were taught the same things. And so they asked Him for clarification. After a short rebuke Jesus instructs them, the greater problem is what comes out of the heart—that is the source of defilement. He says, “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
Look at the heart as a storeroom. It’s within that storeroom evil defiling things are developed then produced. The Lord lists 13 issues, one right after the other, which comes from the storeroom of the heart. Do you want to be free from defilement? There is a way to see this freedom happen.
Now, it’s time for some of my confessions! When I was growing up I did a terrible job keeping my room clean. To remedy the problem my father would grab the biggest trashcan he owned and set it right in the middle of my bedroom. He then started throwing things out, lots of things—randomly. I hated those days. Good toys went to toy heaven and never were seen again. It was all because I defiled my room by not putting toys away.
Our answer: open up the storeroom of our hearts to the Heavenly Father. Let Him come in and throw the trash out! Let Him do His cleaning work. He’ll give you a clean room/heart for good things. Here’s one verse that points to this reality:
Luke 6:45 NIV – The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
The heart is a storeroom that needs to be cleaned up! Don’t be proud, let Him bring the trashcan in and do His cleaning work. He gets rid of the traditions circumventing His Word. Once He deals with our pride so He can clean up the prejudice. Jesus can clear out our Pride and Prejudice if we’ll let Him. Surrender the storeroom of the heart and let Him cleanup as He likes!
J. Robert Hanson