1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" 6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." 14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile." 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
Jesus informs us, the readers, that nothing defiles us going in, but what comes out makes defiles us. The Greek word we translate as defile is also translated elsewhere as “to make common.” I like this definition, because it helps us to understand what is being said. Perhaps if we reword the thoughts from this passage we would see that no matter what is happening around us, if we lower ourselves to be common, that’s what we are. That means we have to give the situation to God for a response before we respond in an ungodly and probably inappropriate way.
When we think about all the shows on TV, or the graphic video games, or the language we hear used in the public areas of our towns, it is difficult to accept this Biblical teaching that what we take in does not defile us. If we accept Jesus’ words as the truth (and I do), then we have to consider this means that we are only defiled if we give in to what we hear going on around us and drop to the same level. Too many times the Christian Church has sounded just like the world and God’s voice does not ring clearly. How about in our personal lives? How do we keep the world from influencing how we live out our Christian faith?