The Jews had strict laws to ensure cleanliness; Moses laid these down under God’s direction. By the time of Jesus these had become rituals to be applied in every possible situation. However, the cleanliness fundamentals in these laws were largely ignored until 200 years ago; illness and death were high as a result. Only in the 1850’s did doctors start learning the need for cleanliness so diseases were not transferred between patients.
Perhaps in those days moral cleanliness was better, helped by the widespread reading of and respect for the Bible. Strangely, today the opposite occurs! Physical cleanliness is all important while moral cleanliness counts for little except when there is some scandal in high places: then the law is applied and those involved feel self-righteous.
These thoughts come from the words of Jesus in today’s Matthew 15. He scolded the leaders, “You hypocrites … 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” (verses 7-9). Careful Bible students will recognise he is quoting words from Isaiah (29:13).
Jesus then told them a parable (verse 11) about how defilement is caused by what comes out of human mouths. This caused Peter to say, “explain the parable to us” and Jesus replies, “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” (verses 18-20).
The world is full of defilement today in films, TV and online. It is remarkable that so many enjoy being defiled in this way. We will soon read in Jeremiah how the people of his day were morally defiled. God caused him to condemn them in strong words and forecast the collapse of the nation of Israel.
Reading the Bible recently with a 16 year old we came across the word ‘adultery’ and she asked what it meant! She had never heard the word! Her ignorance is symbolic of the spiritual darkness that is stifling our world! Let us absorb God’s words into our hearts as a vaccine to help prevent our defilement.