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Summary: Believers are responsible before God to judge sin in their lives, dealing swiftly with evil so that they can serve unhindered.

MARK 7:20-23

SINS WHICH MUST BE JUDGED

“Jesus said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’”

It is jarring to hear a professed Christian using profane or crude language. Such language does not honour the Saviour; nor does it reflect well on our divine parentage. Likewise, it is disturbing to witness professed believers slander one another. Some behaviour is incongruous with the confession of new life in Christ that we profess. It is not that the people of God are incapable of sinning, but rather that we expect better of those who follow Christ; and we are always shocked when God’s people fail to live as children of the Living God.

Overt sin obviously cannot be justified in the lives of Christians; sexual immorality, theft, murder and adultery are clearly proscribed in the Word of God. However, we tend to excuse what I call polite sins—those character traits that are less obvious, or at least more difficult to pin down in the lives of people we know. When we are guilty of evil thoughts, no one knows of this, except for us. Envy, pride and foolishness are tolerated. If someone should accuse us of such, we bristle and question how they could dare judge us.

We are taught in the Word of God that we are responsible to live lives which are distinguished from the world. We are not to live as the world does, nor even to be friends with the world. James excoriates those who imagine that they can live as the world does while claiming allegiance to God when he writes, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” [JAMES 4:4].

The Word of God teaches that we are corporately responsible to judge ourselves as members of one body; but even more vital is that we each assume responsibility to individually judge our own lives. Join me in looking to the Word of the Master as we examine a strong teaching which He provided His disciples on one occasion after exposing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

THE BACKGROUND OF THE MESSAGE — The Pharisees, together with some scribes from Jerusalem, witnessed the disciples eating without washing their hands. This washing of the hands was a ritual washing required of all observant Jews. This was not a hygienic requirement, but a religious requirement, as is obvious from Mark’s comment that this was done “holding to the tradition of the elders” [MARK 7:3]. The disciples’ failure to observe protocol was offensive to the mobile truth squad that followed Jesus and His disciples. They were usually looking for an indiscretion, an offensive statement—anything with which they could accuse Him of religious deviation.

Things were no different on this occasion. The religious arbiters saw that the disciples failed to wash their hands before they ate. You can almost see their raised eyebrows as they nodded knowingly to one another before they turned to the Master; I can only imagine that their tone indicated their incredulity as they accused the Master, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands” [MARK 7:5]?

It was always a mistake to attack the Master, but these experts in religious minutiae were ever hopeful that they might prevail. As was His wont, Jesus responded to their accusation with Scripture. How they must have winced when the Master replied, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honours me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)—“then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do” [MARK 7:6-13].

The religious leaders were exposed as frauds—and that before all the people who seemed always to swarm about the Master. Then, driving the point home in the minds of the crowd, Jesus addressed the broader group that surrounded Him, saying, “Hear Me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him” [MARK 7:14]. The text seems to indicate that His words caused bewilderment, perhaps even consternation. I imagine that were we able to have a photograph of those about Him at that moment, allowing us to see the faces of the people, we would see confusion writ large on their faces.

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