Summary: Within, is the place where change needs to begin... where good intentions are reflected by godly actions.

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Title: The Intentions of the Heart

Text: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15 and 21-23 (Mark 7:1-23)

Thesis: Within, is the place where change needs to begin… where good intentions are reflected by godly actions.


There is a project in the works that is doing Depravity Standard research. The intent is to establish consensus across various demographics, of what intent, action, victimology (the impact or effect of the crime on the victim) and attitude items make a crime depraved and just how depraved each item is.

We currently use terms like “heinous,” “atrocious,” “evil,” and “depraved.” The Depravity Standard seeks to establish just how heinous, atrocious, evil and depraved something is so that the judicial system can impose sentences based on the actual level of depravity. That standard would be the standard regardless of other racial or cultural or social factors that might influence judges and juries and other justice officials.

The purpose of the Depravity Standard is to not only focus on what an offender actually did but to also determine their intent. The intent is what is in the offender’s mind. It is tricky because we can’t see what is in a person’s mind… yet that is precisely where every action originates. So the level of depravity is both a matter of the actual, visible act and the invisible inner intent in the mind of that person.

So we might ask, “Did the 10 year-old boy pull his classmate’s ponytail because he did not like her and wanted to hurt her?” Did the boy pull her ponytail because he was in “puppy love” and wanted to get her attention?” “Did the boy pull her ponytail because some of his friends dared him to pull her ponytail?” “Did the boy pull her ponytail because he was trying to get attention by disrupting the classroom?” So just how depraved is this 10 year-old boy? Is he evil? Is he ornery? Is he insecure? Is he just an immature kid who does dumb stuff? What was in his heart? What was he thinking?

Our text today is all about the intentions of the heart…

Transition: Our text begins with the deceptive nature of the heart. (The heart is the most deceitful of all things, desperately wicked. Who knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9)

I. We are deceived when we focus on keeping up appearances, Mark 7:1-8

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. Mark 7:6-7 (Isaiah 29:13)

Explain: William Barclay points out that the Law originally meant two things: First and foremost it referred to the 10 Commandments. Second it referred to the 5 Books of the Law or the Pentateuch, i.e., the first five books of the Bible. There are a number of detailed regulations and instructions as well as moral principles.

It is unfortunate that at some point the experts in religious law thought it would be helpful to make what was a general principle regarding good personal hygiene to specify how a good person was to practice one’s personal hygiene. That is where the religious teachers of the law got hung up. One resource said the water for washing had to be kept in a special jar to ensure its purity. A person had to hold his hands with his fingers pointing up while someone poured a minimal amount of water down over the hands. While the hands were still wet the hands were washed in the palm of the other. Then the hands, with finger-tips pointed downward, water was poured over the wrists which ran down over the hands and off the ends of the finger-tips. The simple act of washing one’s hands became a required religious ritual. The washing of one’s hands was an indicator of one’s spirituality.

We have all seen the “Employees Must Wash Their Hands before Returning to Work” signs in restaurant restrooms. In February of this year North Carolina Representative Thom Tillis, a strong proponent of governmental deregulation, suggested restaurant employees should not have to wash their hands before returning to work. Instead restaurants should post signs that state “Employees Are Not Required to Wash their Hands before Returning to Work.” Then diners could decide if they want to eat there or not… let the market decide. Of course having to post a “Hand Washing Not Required” sign is a new regulation unless we simply drop all regulations and hope for the best but assume the worst… and let e-coli prevail.

But how do we make sure they wash their hands properly? Should a rinse under running water suffice? Does the employee use disinfecting soap, scrubbing for a minimum of 3 minutes and rinsing under hot water suffice?

Jesus was simply saying that religiously performing a ritual does not constitute righteousness. The religious teachers of the law were more concerned with the outward appearance of righteousness than in the sincerity of the heart. The best question would be, “How is a person’s heart toward God and others?” But that was not the question the religious teachers of the law were asking. They were asking, “Why don’t you guys wash your hands like godly people are supposed to wash their hands?”

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