What Defiles?

Here’s Today’s Devotional from The Vine…

That which enters into the mouth doesn’t defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.Matthew 15:11

There are many applications of this principle. The food we eat does not affect our moral character. No external ceremonies really touch the soul. Indeed, nothing in this world has any power to defile a heart while it remains outside and is not allowed to enter. A man may be a coal-miner, always black and grimy, and always working in dirt, and yet he may have a soul white and unspotted. This is true of living amongst temptations. So long as we keep them outside, they have no power to harm  us.

Luther says somewhere that we cannot prevent the birds flying about our heads, but we can prevent them building their nests in our hair. We cannot prevent a great many evil things buzzing around us continually, but we can keep them from entering our hearts and nesting there. And as long as we do this, the worst things in the world cannot lay a spot upon our souls.

Jesus says that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles us. So, then, there may even be evil in the heart which does not defile unless it is allowed to shape itself in thoughts, words, or deeds. The suggestion of wrong-doing is not a sin until the suggestion is accepted and entertained. Temptation to sin is not itself sin. Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). Suggestions of evil were made to Him by Satan; yet Jesus never sinned, because these suggestions never found any resting place in His heart, and therefore never found any expression in word or act, or even in thought.

Temptations will often come to us from outside us — we cannot stop these things from happening — we are not responsible for them and there is no sin in merely having them happen to us. But the sin begins the moment we open the door to one of these sinful invitations. It’s the things which “proceed out” that defile us.

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