- William T. Howe Ph.D.
March 4, 2022
The Year of our Lord, Jesus Christ
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
The Lord’s answer to the original question asked by the Pharisees was: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (Matthew 15:11) The Pharisees were concerned with appearances whereas the Lord was concerned with the heart. Their accusation and question in Matthew 15:2 was Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
They didn’t wash their hands. Horrible! Right? No, not according to Jesus. He said the issue is not that which goes into a person, but that which comes out of the person. A few verses later in Matthew 15 the Savior gives further details. But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. Matthew 15:18-20
Herein, the Lord is stating forth a subtle change. In the Old Testament the focus seems to be works of the flesh; in the New Testament the priority seems to be on the issues of the heart. Hence the saying “The Old Testament is physical wherein the New Testament is Spiritual.” For example, in the Old Testament a person is held responsible for what they do, in the New Testament, one is held responsible for what they think. Consider the long conflict between David and Saul. It was physical. In the Old Testament a person was guilty of murder by physically murdering another. In the New Testament a person is guilty of murder by the hatred in their heart toward another.
This idea of spiritual vs. physical was first introduced by the Lord in Matthew 5 during the Sermon on the Mount. There the Lord uses the phrase, But I say unto you five times. In each one He is contrasting an Old Testament physical teaching with a New Testament spiritual teaching. Now, in Matthew 15 the Lord uses this opportunity to reinforce that spiritual nature by the issue of the washing of hands. It is not the dirt of the physical world that defiles us, it is the dirt in the heart.
But, today, there are many who fall into the same thinking of the scribes and Pharisees. They look upon the acts of a person rather than understanding those acts resided in the heart long before they were made manifest through actions.
Until Next Time,
William T. Howe, Ph.D.