It is the thought-life that defiles you. - Mark 7:20
Whether the world is getting better or worse is a subject for debate about which you will not find agreement. But there is no argument that there are many things sadly wrong with our world. The evidence is unmistakable. The debate on this issue is, “Why?” Some say that Western culture is polluted, and its insidious corrupting influence is responsible for personal ethics and behaviors which are so deplorable. The solution then becomes a matter of reforming culture. Others say that as culture is created by humans, it is the humans who are corrupted. Therefore, the solution lies in the human heart.
This debate was raging, in a slightly different form, during the earthly ministry of Jesus. The religious people of the day were adamant that it was external things that were responsible for moral and spiritual corruption and that, if proper care was taken to avoid the corrupt externals, moral and spiritual purity was assured. On this premise, they had established elaborate codes of behavior. The result was a meticulous observance of religious rituals designed to guarantee right behavior and a sound society.
Then along came Jesus. He challenged this viewpoint and told the people, “You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do” (Mark 7:15). Even his disciples were confused by this radical statement, so they asked him privately to explain further. This Jesus did, in graphic terms. He pointed out that food, which in their minds was an example of an external polluting influence, could not possibly be responsible for polluting a person’s character and behavior, because it enters the stomach and passes through the body (7:19). Instead, “You are defiled by what you say and do. . . . It is the thought-life that defiles you” (7:15, 20).
Jesus taught that the ills of society are born in the human heart. “From within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, eagerness for lustful pleasure, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” (7:22). A modern way of expressing similar sentiments is this:
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Speaking of destiny, Jesus not only said that thoughts corrupt, but he added that the thought-life “make[s] you unacceptable to God” (7:23).
The social ramifications of aberrant behavior that is born in the human heart are desperately serious. But the seriousness pales in comparison to the eternal consequences of sin. Your thought-life can corrupt your society but, more significantly, it can condemn your soul.
For Further Study: Mark 7:14-23
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.