10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Generally, this statement by Jesus is coupled together with the previous 9 and we lose the impact of what He is trying to teach us. Yes, it refers to the lesson with the Pharisees and their concern over following the tradition of ceremonially washing their hands as a sign of righteousness and holiness, but Jesus speaks something in verse 11 that is so profound and resonating throughout our entire existence that we MUST capture if we ever want to mature spiritually. I talk a lot about our “heart condition,” that is, the rightness of our heart with God and others. God doesn’t care what you wear or how you ceremoniously cleanse yourself. He cares about your relationship with Him. It’s always been about our relationship with Him. This is what was broken in the beginning of time when man first sinned. The Ten Commandments aren’t about controlling us or even trying to make us obedient to Him. In John 15, Jesus makes a profound statement:
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
We tend to read this passage as Jesus commanding us to obey Him. He is actually giving us a formula for success. He doesn’t command authority over us and demand we do things His way, He is telling us that His commands guide us in realizing our full potential in our relationship with Him. We look at the commandments as rules that govern us and Jesus says, “Look, in doing these things you purify yourself and thus grow closer to Me.” The commandments don’t dictate right and wrong or even holy and unholy; they show us how to purify ourselves. The Apostle Paul says it this way in Romans 12:
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
It is the transformation of our heart that brings about our change of actions. If you don’t believe me, try changing a habit or action that you have without being convinced you should do so. When we are born again of God, He changes our heart and begins to transform us. Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 12 that it is from our heart that flows our words. Some things change instantly, other changes we must fight for, but we must recognize, as David did in Psalm 19, that God’s will is absolute and perfect and as we align ourselves with it, we will be more free to experience life with Him:
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. 10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. 13 Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
So let us then work towards this. Let us not focus on our outward appearance, our method of speech, or how we behave. Let us instead work towards the aligning of our heart with God’s and the actions will come naturally as we are restored to our original designed state: in communion with the Creator.