The teaching of Jesus in Mark 7 is simple, though challenging: What makes one unclean or corrupt is the uncleanness and corruption that is natural to the human heart because of sin. Putting “unclean” things into your body won’t make your heart more unclean than it naturally is. Furthermore, washing the outside of your body (ceremonially) won’t make your heart more clean than it naturally is. The locus of our corruption is on the inside, not the outside. Sin doesn’t come from what we consume, or what we fail to consume, but from our hearts.
Jesus drives that point home especially in verses 20-23:
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 7:20-23
Our sin is, first and foremost, an internal problem. It has first and foremost an internal cause. Sin is caused by the sinful condition of our hearts.
Yet most of the time, when we are confronted by our own sin, we rush to blame that sin on external issues. We blame our circumstances. We blame other people. We chalk our sin up to a bad day or a stressful time at work. We rush to blame our sin on something outside of us, even though Jesus says that it comes, first and foremost, due to what is inside of us.
Consider just a few of the examples of sin Jesus lists in the passage above. We blame coveting on the possessions that we lack, or on the abundance of possessions that other people have. We blame sexual immorality on how prevalent it is in our culture. Because porn is everywhere, we think it isn’t a big deal of we occasionally dabble in it. We blame deceit on other people. We let their expectations of us be the justification we need to lie about ourselves so that their expectations will be fulfilled. We even can blame our pride on other people. We blame it on the fact that people don’t respect us enough, they don’t understand how awesome we really are.
Blaming our sin on something (or someone) outside of us is the natural instinct of the human heart. It has been happening since Genesis 3. When God confronted Adam and Eve over their sin in the Garden, they responded by pointing the finger at something (or someone) else: The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen 3:12-13).
When we sin, we blame something outside of us for what Jesus tells us is an internal problem. We don’t sin because of our circumstances. We don’t sin because of trying people or situations that test us. We sin…because we are sinners. Our problem is an internal one, not an external one.
Because of this internal problem, we need a solution that comes from outside of us. We need a solution that doesn’t start in our corrupt, unclean hearts, but that starts in the perfect, loving heart of God. We need the gospel!
This article is adapted from the message Redemption Accomplished, preached at Capitol City Christian Church on 5/12/2019. To hear the entire message, click here.