Fit To Worship: Mark 7:1-23

Focus Passage: Mark 7:1-23 (CEV)

Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me
    with your words,
but you never really
    think about me.
It is useless for you
    to worship me,
when you teach rules
    made up by humans.”

You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10 Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12 You won’t let those people help their parents. 13 And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

14 Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16 The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”

17 After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18 He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19 It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20 Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21 Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22 unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23 All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Read Mark 7:1-23 in context and/or in other translations on!

In Jesus’ response when the Pharisees challenge the disciples over not washing their hands, He draws our attention onto how we should be more interested with what comes out of our mouths than what goes into them. However, like what often happened following Jesus teaching, the disciples bring up the subject again when they were alone with Jesus and they ask for more clarification.

In this event, Jesus’ responds to the disciples in a similar way as He had done earlier with the crowd, but He contrasts two different body parts: the heart and the stomach.

Food we consume in our mouths goes into our stomach. It is then digested. However, this food never reaches your heart before being filtered and dissolved into the basic nutrients. Instead, what leaves our heart will leave through our mouth. Our words reveal what our heart is thinking, and what comes from our heart is what can make us unclean. If you were curious if Jesus defines specifically what can make us unclean, these four verses contain Jesus’ definition: “What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.” (v. 20-23)

Jesus says that any one of these things can make us “unfit to worship God”, and this list includes some pretty bad things. Looking past the surface items in the list, we can see that this list includes items that are thoughts, actions, choices, and attitudes. Any evil thought, action, choice, or attitude will make us unfit to worship God.

While we are sinners and Jesus came to die for our sins, this doesn’t override our freedom of choice. All the evil things in the list are things that we have the freedom to choose to do or not to do.

However, what Jesus doesn’t say in this passage is how we can feed our heart. This is done by choosing what we focus on and pay attention to. While we cannot eliminate every negative thing from reaching our senses, we can be so intentional about pushing good things into our mind that the good can crowd out the bad. In many ways, this is how we are able to eliminate the things from our heart that can make us unclean and unfit for worship.

In order to find the best things for our mind, we don’t need to look any further than the Bible and the Holy Spirit. By prayerfully reading and studying the Bible, we can help the Holy Spirit push the bad habits in our lives and replace them with good, Godly habits that will make us fit to worship God.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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