Matthew 15:1-20 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 7:1-23)
15:1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
The Pharisees criticized Jesus and His disciples for eating without washing their hands. Ceremonial cleansing was a staple of the Pharisees practices. When Jesus allowed His disciples to eat without washing, they felt that He was disrespecting the tradition. Jesus told His disciples that the Pharisees disrespected their own tradition, essentially making their complaints void. They did not offer true worship, but heartless worship. He then explained why the washing ritual was not necessary. It is what come out of a person’s mouth that defiles, not what goes in.
12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”
13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”
15 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
16 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
Jesus is told that the Pharisees were offended, to which He responds that they are not a plant planted by God, but rather they are blind leaders leading the blind, and they are both lost. If the blind lead the blind, they are both in danger of falling into the ditch! He then explains the parable that what goes in the mouth is expelled, so a little dirt will not hurt the eater. However, the things that come out of the mouth are indicative of what is in the heart, and demonstrate the defilement of that individual.
Speak what is pure. Speak what is profitable. Let your heart be pure and your mouth be pure. This is more important than washing one’s hands. Wash you hands, but–whatever you do–cleanse your heart!