Read MARK 7:14–23

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16]

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



It is not the keeping (or not keeping) of religious rituals that corrupt us. It is what emerges from within—heart actions and thoughts that harm us and destroy relationships.

Think Further

Having ruthlessly exposed the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, Jesus returns to the original problem raised by the Pharisees (5): what makes a person clean or unclean? At the beginning of today’s reading (14), Jesus calls the crowd to him (are the Pharisees still present?) and gives a proverbial statement about what it is that
defiles a person. The proverb effectively repudiates the elaborate Old Testament laws, with their instructions about what makes a person clean or unclean (e.g., Lev. 11; 12; 15), but, as so frequently, the disciples fail to understand and ask for a private explanation. Jesus’ response begins with exasperation at their failure (18) before he provides that explanation—and, in case his (probably Gentile) readers miss it, Mark adds an editorial comment in verse 19b that literally means “cleansing all foods.” Given subsequent events in the early church (e.g., Acts 10:9–17), one wonders how much the disciples actually understood Jesus’ teaching at this point, but by the time Mark wrote his Gospel such teaching clarified and validated the setting aside of the Old Testament food laws. The root of true defilement comes from the heart, out of which comes all that is evil and impure (21,22).
We suspect that at least one of the actions that Jesus states makes a person unclean (21,22), on occasion, comes out of our own hearts. We probably do not need to be told that these actions defile us—precisely because we are familiar with Jesus’ teaching. For the disciples, however, this teaching was radical and a challenge to so much of what they had previously been taught. We need to ensure
that our outward observance does not mask an inner problem with our hearts (cf. Matt. 5:21–48). The radical call to the disciples for
inner purity comes down through the centuries to us.


“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10). How is Jesus’ radical call being seen as forming in your heart?