After His encounter with the Scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus explains to His disciples what actually defiles the heart and makes a person unfit for the Kingdom of Heaven.
“And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 7:14-16).
Those who do not recognise the true condition of their own heart do not understand the need to walk in holiness and righteousness. To suggest that believers should live a sanctified life is considered to be unscriptural and foolish to many. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
The heart of man is corrupt from birth; “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Sin affects not only the heart, but also the will, conscience, mind, memory, and understanding. We note that the so-called genius of this world fails to comprehend even the simplest truths of the Bible. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Believers ought to pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to enlighten their hearts with the understanding of God’s word, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17-18). Human intellect is not enough, for it all depends on our willingness to read, study and meditate upon the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Like David, if we want to know the truth, we should say, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments” (Psalm 119:66).
“And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?” (Mark 7:17-19).
Moral purity does not result from observing ceremonies and rituals. Eating a mouldy piece of bread cannot make a person spiritually unclean before God, instead it is a filthy heart which renders him impure. Man cannot blame his sinfulness on his environment but on the condition of his own nature. We were all inclined towards sin from the moment of our birth. The heart of man is the very fountain of wickedness, therefore it does not need to be taught to sin, it simply comes naturally. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4) … “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Without God’s intervention we would be ruined, lost and destined for Hell.
No child is born with a sinless nature. This is the reason God has given parents the responsibility to bring up their children to know and love Him. The hearts of children are not safe until that day they personally commit themselves to Christ in faith. Until then, it is the parent’s duty to guide them away from sin. Most of our social ills are the result of poor parenting. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The seed and the roots of sin must be removed and replaced with the word of God.
“And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).
Jesus lists several reasons why man’s heart is wicked in the eyes of God. This catalogue of sin is evidence enough to prove that every person, unless they are born again, stand condemned before God, and have no one to blame but themselves. The text is speaking of the true nature of all men, not just the murderer, the thief or the paedophile. This black catalogue of sin can be found in the rich and the poor, in the young and the old, and in the educated as well as the illiterate, for sin knows no social boundaries.
The seed of sin lies dormant in the heart until it is watered by the will and temptation. Willpower might keep a person from acts of sin, but the potential to commit terrible wickedness is still there, for sin is in the very nature of man. Only those who have allowed the Lord to uproot the sin nature are righteous in His eyes. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
While our friends might not know what we are truly like, God reads the hearts of all men. It is only when a person acknowledges that they are sinners at heart, rather than just confessing acts of sin, that they can be saved. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). As believers we ought to be continuously thankful that we are born again, and if we commit sin, Jesus remains “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Nevertheless we must keep a watchful guard over our words and deeds, but especially our thoughts, for thoughts give birth to words and deeds. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).