Clean Hands, Dirty Heart

Where was this Bible verse when I was growing up?

“to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”  (Matthew 15:20b)

If I had only known.  Jesus said it; it must be true.  Gospel truth, no less.  I could have had that verse memorized and ready to quote at opportune moments.  Alas…   Of course, now I know better.  Jesus wasn’t giving hygiene instructions for little boys.  He was challenging hypocritical religious leaders, the ones who wanted to control others with nit-picky rules.  Jesus’ point was that righteousness (or the lack thereof) is determined by what is in our hearts and not by what may be smudging our hands.

“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” (Matthew 15:17-20)

Wash all you want and you cannot cleanse corruption of the heart.  Only the Holy Spirit, living within can pull that off.  Happily, that is exactly what God promises to do.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

(Isaiah 1:18)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins and
to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
 (1 John 1:9)

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