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Mark 7:18-23 meaning...

This deals with the issue of what makes a person clean or unclean. In this passage, Jesus responds to a question from his disciples about why he does not follow the traditional Jewish laws about washing before eating.

In this passage, Jesus challenges the idea that external actions or rituals, such as washing before eating, can make a person clean or unclean. Instead, he argues that what truly makes a person unclean is what comes from within them - their thoughts, intentions, and actions.

Jesus begins by asking his disciples if they understand that what goes into a person from outside cannot defile them. He explains that food, for example, does not enter a person's heart, but rather goes through their digestive system and is eliminated. In this way, all foods are purified, regardless of whether they conform to Jewish dietary laws.

Jesus then goes on to say that it is not what goes into a person, but rather what comes out of them, that defiles them. He provides a list of sins that originate from within a person's heart, such as evil thoughts, sexual sins, murders, thefts, and pride. Jesus is saying that these things are what truly make a person unclean, not external actions or rituals.

  • Eating with Unwashed Hands:

The passage begins with a remark about eating with unwashed hands, a practice that the Pharisees considered essential for ritual purity. They questioned Jesus about this, and his response serves as a gateway to deeper spiritual truths.

  • True Defilement Comes from Within:

Jesus redirects the focus from external rituals to the heart, declaring, "There is nothing from outside of the man that going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man."

Internal Defilement: Jesus challenges the traditional understanding of defilement, asserting that it's not external factors like food or unwashed hands that make a person unclean. Instead, defilement originates from within, from the heart and the choices that proceed from it.

Catalog of Evils: In verses 21-23, Jesus provides a catalog of evils that arise from within: "For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual sins, murders, thefts, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness."

  • Heart Transformation:

Jesus' words highlight the need for heart transformation. Merely adhering to external rituals does not address the root issue of the human condition. True purity and righteousness require a change of heart.

  • Practical Application:

The passage challenges us to examine the condition of our hearts. It prompts reflection on the motivations, desires, and attitudes that guide our actions. Here are key takeaways for practical application:

Internal Examination: Regularly examining our hearts involves introspection and openness to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It's about asking ourselves why we do what we do.

Transformation through Christ: The recognition of internal defilement is a call to surrender our hearts to Christ for transformation. It's an acknowledgment that our own efforts are insufficient, and we need the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.

Guarding Against Evil: Proactively guarding our hearts involves being vigilant against the catalog of evils listed by Jesus. This includes cultivating a spirit of humility, resisting lustful desires, guarding against deceit, and fostering a heart that is aligned with God's values.


Proverbs 4:23: "Above all guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." This echoes the emphasis on the heart as the source of actions.

Jeremiah 17:9: "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" This reinforces the recognition of the human heart's capacity for deception and the need for transformation.

Conclusion: Mark 7:18-23 unveils a profound truth about the nature of defilement. It redirects our focus from external practices to the condition of the heart. It is a powerful reminder that true purity and goodness come from within. External actions and rituals may be important, but they are not enough to make a person truly clean. It is only by cultivating a pure heart and mind that we can truly become the kind of people that God wants us to be. As we navigate our spiritual journey, may we heed Jesus' call for internal transformation, recognizing that true purity emanates from a heart surrendered to Him.

See also: vs 14-15

Mark 7:18-23. “Don’t you perceive that whatever goes into the man from outside can’t defile him, because it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, then into the latrine, thus purifying all foods?” He said, “That which proceeds out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual sins, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”


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