This week’s scripture reading, Matt. 15:18-20,
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are [the things] which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. * (fornications – harlotry, adultery, idolatry, incest) * (defileth – pollute, unclean) * (blasphemies – evil speaking against God)
A Figurative Approach
In this Bible study called what does from the heart really mean, it is important to note the figurative use of the word heart by Jesus. In the world, we often hear phrases like “that broke my heart” “I love you from the bottom of my heart” and”his heart just wasn’t in it”. These are similarly intended to describe something figuratively. The heart in and of itself is an organ of the body and physically circulates blood throughout the body. It therefore, does not necessarily have a sense of conscience.
The point being made here from Jesus is that thoughts that defile a person, while being described as coming from the heart, in reality mean that they are coming from one’s mind but more importantly in concert with their soul or conscience. This is where evil thoughts originate in a person, so when asking what does from the heart really mean, it is the figurative perspective of a deeply engrained thought in your mind, or figuratively from one’s heart.
Sins of the Heart
With this context in mind, let us now explore why and where evil thoughts originate from within ourselves despite our intentions to be good to one another. A previous Bible study focused on the nature of sin from the first chapter of the gospel according to Matthew. Recall the scripture reading for this study from Matt. 1:21, And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Jesus is the sin bearer for the sins of the world and rightly so since we have all inherited sin from Adam. As Paul wrote in Rom. 3:23, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
Now before anyone pats themselves on the back thinking they have not committed any of the sins listed by Jesus such as adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness or blasphemies, consider whether you have ever lusted in you heart, or kept items from work for your own use, or just told a white lie to someone. Consider the earlier teachings of Jesus on murder and adultery to better understand how this week’s scripture passage is simply a continuation of the same message to encourage people to go deeper in examining their thoughts and motives.
A Heart Defiled
But dear readers and seeker of faith, here is the shocking message of this teaching from Jesus. He describes these things that come from the heart as defiling a person. Here is the news flash, without redemption in Christ we are already defiled, we are already sinners, we are already condemned! What proceeds out of the mouth is merely confirmation of what we are on the inside, in our heart, in our soul and spirit. The Bible says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins and in need of a saviour (Eph. 2:1-3, Col. 2:13).
Christianity is not simply a case of wanting or willing to do better in our life and conduct, we are beyond redemption on our own. The Bible says that all we like sheep have gone astray (Is. 53:6). The scriptures tell us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The reality of it is without Christ there will be a great and unfathomable chasm between us and God (Luke 16:26) and no amount of will power (Eph. 2:8-9), will worship (Col. 2:23), self esteem or self improvement courses will get you to the promised land.
Need for New Birth
This is why the Bible describes so much about our sinful condition and the way of redemption through Christ. Let us look at the book of John for example. The beloved disciple of Jesus describes Jesus as life and that this life is the light of man (John 1:4-5) but although the light shines in the darkness, or our sin tainted heart does not even comprehend it. This is why Jesus explained to an inquiring Pharisee named Nicodemus that we must be born again, or born from above spiritually. Jesus spoke to Nicodemus and said that unless a person is born again he cannot even see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
As Jesus explains the importance of the need for a spiritual birth he then encompasses this in one of the most popular Bible verses from John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Do you see the connection he is making here? There is only one redeemer for mankind and it is in the only begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is for whosoever, not for a select or privileged few individuals. Jesus states whosoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life. This is life for eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ, in his holy presence and the only way to get there is through his atoning sacrifice.
Belief in the Lord
Jesus tells us that those who believe in him are no longer condemned but those who do not believe are actually condemned already (John 3;18). This means the sentence is already cast upon them because they have not believed in the only begotten Son of God for their redemption. Why is this? The Bible continues in the book of John as Jesus states further in this passage from John 3:19-21, And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Do you now see how this brings us back full circle to this week’s scripture reading from Jesus on what does from the heart really mean? The sad reality is that men as noted above, or people in general, love darkness more than the light that comes from Jesus. We are not talking about some strange metaphysical light emanating from him but rather the fact that he is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6) and that he is the light of the world (John 8:12). It is as the old song goes, Jesus is the answer, Jesus is the way, Jesus is the only hope today!
It’s Your Time
In closing off this Bible study, why not take this moment to come to God in prayer, seek repentance, believe in his Son for atonement of your sins and receive eternal life today. I encourage you not to put this decision off for another day, for that day may never come. The Bible says in 2 Cor. 6:2, For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.) * (succour – support in time of hardship or distress)
Will you continue to live a life of being defiled from that which comes out of your heart, or will you let God transform your heart today? Returning one last time to this week’s scripture reading, Jesus said to his disciples in Matt. 15:13, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Start living the life God wants you to live today.
Bible Study Questions
- In this Bible study, how would you define a word in the figurative sense to someone reading this verse?
- Where do thoughts and deeds come from when Jesus describes them as defiling a person?
- The Bible teaches us that if we work hard at self improvement we can overcome all of our evil thoughts, true or false? Hint Is. 64:6, Eph. 2:8-9.
- What did Jesus mean when he said we must be born again in John chapter 3?
- Fill in the blanks from this verse in John 3:21, But he that doeth _____________ cometh to the _____________, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
- Who was it in the scriptures that described himself as the light of the world? Hint John 8:12.
- If you felt conviction over some of the things that come from the heart, did you make a decision for repentance today?