14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 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.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
It had been another losing season for the college football team. The coach was a nice guy, but the alumni were demanding a change. The athletic director summoned the coach in for that dreadful meeting in which he would have to tell the man he was out of a job. The coach heard this news with incredulity. “But we only used two time-outs last season!”
This is patently ridiculous. No one would ever think a football season was a success because the coach had somehow managed to save all his time-outs. The time-outs allotted for a football game evaporate after the game. They are meaningless. But are we really all that different, imagining that God’s favor and heaven are a reward for being nice or following a few rules? Do we sit in church and hear the cars driving by on Sunday morning and imagine that God somehow likes us better than those folks who are skipping church today to go golfing or fishing? Jesus was trying to get this across to the people of his day who thought that God really cared whether you ate a BLT or wore clothes that mixed cotton and wool fibers. God’s interest is in you, not these peripheral things.
Jesus came because wretched things come out of your heart and defile you, rendering you unfit for God’s presence. Often our own attempts to make things right are just another manifestation of our problem. Your and my solution will not be found in keeping this or that rule, having our doctrinal statements corrected to the final period, comma, or semicolon. Our solution is only found in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, try to be a person who reflects the love which God showers down upon you. But never imagine that His love is bought by what you do or say or even by what you believe. His love for you flows out of his very nature and you cannot change that.