Clean Hands or Clean Heart? (Matthew 13-15)

it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.

Matthew 15:11

Today, everyone is talking about washing hands. We all know the drill; wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, avoid large crowds, etc… We are all certainly more aware and concience of germs than we used to be. Most of us (I would like to think), practiced generally good hygene before all this but with Covid-19 there is a new hyper awareness. So culturally when Jesus doesn’t seem to think its a big deal if his disciples wash their hands or not, it really jumps off the page.

The modern reader might be worried about if Jesus knew or cared about germs. While there might be plenty of helpful hygene information in scripture (there is more than you might suspect), the primary concern of those complaining was a tradition handed down like it was a law. The Jewish folks had a ritual practice of washing hands before they ate. It symbolized being clean before God and only taking in what is right, pure and wholesome. It wasn’t really a law but it was a symbol. Therefore in the eyes of those watching, when the disciples didn’t conform to the rutual practice, they appeared to be hypocrites.

Jesus used this opportunity to expose the hearts of those who were quick to condemn his disciples. God wasn’t nearly as concerned about if someone had ritually clean hands as much as we was about if they had a spiritually clean heart. He charged the Pharisees and scribes of holding on to the forms (appearance) of God’s law, but completely ignoring the substance (the actual Law of God). He quoted Isaiah in saying that they honored God with their lips but, there hearts were far from God.

We might give the Pharisees and scribes a hard time because they should know better, but some times we can be guilty of the same thing. There are many who try to hold on to some sort of appearance of godliness rather than actually seeking to honor and obey God from the heart. We shold be careful of putting on a “show” and more intent on allowing God to conform us into the image of Chirst.

Father, I pray that I would never obscure the substance of your word with a mere form or practice. I thank you that Jesus is the only one who can make us truly righteous from the inside out. I pray that we would all be found righteous in him. I pray that we would all be surenedered and sensative to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that He might conform us more and more into the image of Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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