“That didn’t sound like me at all?” “Where did that come from?” – Jesus presents an idea about what your life flows from, and how to fix it.
Matthew 15:1–20 (NIV) 1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
The heart is a hub as well. Everything we experience is processed through our hearts, the good and the bad. Life comes at us from all directions, but it all gets channeled through our hearts. Unfortunately, our negative experiences have a tendency to get stuck there. Eventually they make their way out through our words and deeds; but because of the delay between entry and exit, we often have a difficult time making the connection.
So we’re mad but don’t know why. We’re discontent, but can find no real reason to feel that way. We’re resentful toward certain types of people, though they’ve done nothing to deserve it. We’re jealous while knowing all the time that it’s foolish to dislike somebody for having something we don’t. None of these things make any sense, but they’re real. And left unchecked they have the potential to drive us into self-destructive and relationship-wrecking behavior patterns. So maybe Jesus was right. Maybe all that junk we don’t like about ourselves really does come “from the heart.”
– Andy Stanley
The heart is a maze that only God can solve (Jeremiah 17:9–10). Computers can’t decipher its floor plan. We modestly admit we don’t know someone else’s heart, but the truth is we can’t even know our own. Do you always know why you choose chocolate over vanilla? Why one day your passions sizzle and another you’re a dead leaf in the wind? Can you number all the events and images that impress your heart and make it lean this way or that? Haven’t you been surprised by the insincerity and even intrigue you’ve found in your heart? But the heart is more than complicated and unsearchable: it is “deceitful above all things” (verse 9). Every night Tom Brokaw tells us about shady politics and business scams. People finding loopholes in the law to use their sweat-earned money to build stately pleasure domes in Xanadu. But the sleaziest back-room Mafia deal can’t equal the deceitfulness in your heart. The heart is “deceitful above all things.” Do you doubt it?
Think how fickle you are. One day you’re a sage, the next a clown. You can be open and cheery or reserved and gloomy, easy to get along with or a real crank, romantic or frosty. One day Jesus is all the world to you; the next, you love the world more than King Midas did. And think of your inconsistencies. Your mind says tithing is right, and your will puts the money in the plate—but all the while you wish God weren’t so demanding. Or you know that secret communion with God is a feast for your soul, and you long for it—but you can’t roll out of bed, or if you do, your mind zooms everywhere in the universe except to heaven. Or your mind knows that lust is evil and dangerous, but you put yourself to sleep at night imagining a weekend in Monterey with the hunk two apartments down. This unsearchable, deceitful heart is where sin hides. The Preacher said, “The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live” (Ecclesiastes 9:3). Jesus called the heart the fountain of sin (Matthew 15:19), and a treasure chest where we sock away evil (Luke 6:45). Put all this together and you have a scene no director could stage. He could never design a house as complex as your heart, or gather enough monsters to fill it.
– Kris Lundgaard
Lundgaard, Kris. The Enemy within: Straight Talk about the Power and Defeat of Sin. P & R, 1998.
Stanley, Andy. Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control. Multnomah Books, 2011.
The Canons of Dort, Topic 1