What defiles a man?

“And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”” —Mark 7:14–23, ESV

Today, many people are concerned with what they eat. A good friend of ours will be visiting next week. She’s a naturopath. I’m not real sure what that means. I do know that I am not one. She eats healthy foods like pea milk and kale (don’t ask . . . I don’t know how they get milk from peas).

No doubt the care and concern my friend and others take is admirable. But Jesus said that isn’t what is most important. After all, what you eat goes into your stomach and then leaves the body (v. 19).

What was most important? Jesus said it was the things that come from a man’s heart. He lists thirteen separate examples of things that can come out of a man and defile himself. The list isn’t intended by our Lord to be exhaustive, or complete. But it is intended to teach us exactly what we should be concerned about in regards to avoiding defilement.

It is the heart that should be man’s highest priority. The wise man said, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, ESV). If one can keep his heart pure, he can keep his life pure.

Similarly Paul wrote to Timothy, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7–8, ESV).

Instead of food, Paul deals with exercise and it’s low value to the disciple when compared to training one’s self for godliness. The emphasis here is that we should all be striving to be more holy, more righteous, and more godly every day.

Am I suggesting that those who emphasize physical health are wrong? Not at all. There is a place and time for taking care of the body.

But . . . what if people spent as much time, effort, and money on their spiritual lives as they do preserving and maintaining their physical bodies? How much better off would all people be?

The answer is simple and clear. And that’s the overall point. Go ahead and provide for the flesh. But make sure you provide what is good for the spirit first. It is more important!