The world today is very conscious of cleanliness – hand sanitisers are everywhere. It was discovered around 150 years ago that doctors should thoroughly wash their hands before examinations. Without this diseases were spreading between patients. The value of the cleanliness laws in God’s instructions to Moses was then acknowledged. These laws stressed the importance of washing both body and clothes especially after being exposed to anything unclean (see Leviticus 14:8,9; 15:13 etc.).

Jewish Priests in the days of Jesus turned cleanliness into a ritual that made them feel more righteous (see Luke 11:37-41). And they criticised Jesus for letting his disciples eat with unwashed hands (Mark 7:2-5). In Matthew 15, Jesus calls them hypocrites and said, “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” (Matthew 15:7-9). He then called people to him and said, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth” (verse 11).

His disciples ask what he means by this; he tells them, “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 thought comes first, then the deed follows. Our world is full of this kind of defilement. Before every wrong doing comes wrong thinking. TV, the internet, magazines feed human minds, defiling them, making them inclined to think and imagine fleshly godless actions. People are turning thoughts into actions emulating what they feed their minds on, with extreme examples being the senseless shooting rampages.

Sources of defilement are everywhere, making it essential that we feed our minds with the word of God every day – and it must be a balanced meal, not just reading the bits we like and which may not challenge our consciences. Jesus condemns those whose distorted application of the divine revelation “have made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:6). Let us be awake to what can defile us and read God’s word with a sincere heart.