Every time I read one of Jesus conversations with the religious leaders of His day, I wonder what He would say to the leaders of the churches now. He never sugar-coated what He said to them and was often extremely critical of them calling them “brood of vipers” (Matthew 12:34), “whitewashed tombs” ( Matthew 23:27), and here “hypocrites” (vs 7). Here are the leaders of the Jews, the ones who should know, and Jesus is being critical of them for putting their traditions ahead of God’s law.
The religious leaders came to Jesus asking why His disciples didn’t follow the tradition of a ceremonial handwashing prior to eating their meals.
So Jesus responded with a question, “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (vs 3 NIV) God’s law says to honor our parents, but the Pharisees taught that someone could go to their parents and tell them that there were not going to care for them in their old age but were instead going to give that money to the temple. This would leave the parents destitute when they could no longer work to support themselves. This was dishonoring to those parents and in direct disobedience to the command of God.
Then Jesus goes on to answer the question. The ceremonial washing did nothing to actually clean the hands. The food going into the person’s mouth was already washed and prepared so it wasn’t unclean. But what was coming out of their mouths was sinful.
I recently read an article by a Christian author, on a reputable Christian website boasting about her use of foul language. She talked about how she had tried to give it up, but was unable to, so she just let the f-bombs fly, and if people were offended, that was their problem not hers. I was shocked! This coming from a professing Christian on a Christian website that I had respected left me floored.
Jesus explained further, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (vs 18-19 NIV) Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV) I really like how The Message Bible puts it, “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”
But in thinking about what comes out of our mouths, what about gossip, does that build up anyone? NO! What about lies? We need to make sure that every word that comes from our mouths promotes furthering God’s kingdom.
“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5 NIV) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV) This is what needs to come from our mouths.