Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man; but that which comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.
The religious people in the time of Christ were right in being anxious to avoid defilement, but they made a great mistake in their idea as to its source, and therefore they went wrong in their notions of the evil thing itself.
I. THE AWAKENED CONSCIENCE DESIRES TO BE FREE FROM DEFILEMENT.
1. On its own account. Children who have been brought up in the gutter have no idea of cleanliness and no desire for it; and souls that have habitually wallowed in filth do not perceive their own degradation until a new and better influence has been brought to bear upon them. Nevertheless, man, made in the image of God, cannot attain his true end while the Divine image is corrupted and befouled, and when a gleam of his better nature awakes he longs to be pure. The cultivation of the spiritual life brings a horror of defilement. For its own sake the soul then longs to be clean.
2. Because of the effects of defilement.
(1) Shame. The first perception of defilement seen side by side with purity sends a shock of shame through the awakened soul.
(2) Banishment from God. Without holiness no one can see God. Nothing unclean can enter heaven, i.e. the presence of God (Revelation 21:27).
(3) Blindness. The defiled soul is dark; it cannot perceive spiritual truth.
II. THE PERVERTED CONSCIENCE MISTAKES THE SOURCE OF DEFILEMENT. The root error of the Pharisees was externalism. The prim propriety of demeanour which characterized the professional saints of Jerusalem covered hearts as corrupt as any of the publicans' and sinners'. Yet the Pharisees thought themselves clean. They dreaded contact with a corpse, but they had little scruple in entertaining a corrupt thought. They would stop their ears at the sound of blasphemy, but they would give the reins to their tongues in malignant words. The evil of Pharisaism is by no means extinct today. Religious people dread to be found in association with questionable characters. They are anxious to be perfectly correct in the external observances of worship. They do not go to the extreme of the folly of the Pharisees, but they too often manifest the same spirit.
III. THE ENLIGHTENED CONSCIENCE PERCEIVES THE TRUE SOURCE OF DEFILEMENT WITHIN ITSELF. It is part of the work of Christ to arouse and guide the consciences of men. Thus he shows us that the real origin of defilement is in our own hearts. A black fountain will always pour out a black flood, do what we may to cleanse the stream; on the other hand, a spring of pure water will quickly wash away any casual defilement that falls into it. A man is not his environment. It is dangerous to be in the midst of corrupting influences; and yet a bed of lilies may grow out of foulest mire. A herd of swine will not be converted into a troupe of pure virgins by entering temple; they will only convert the sanctuary into a sty. The corruption of a bad heart will be detected in language and conduct. When these are unworthy they will reflect shame on the debased heart from which they come. It is the great lesson of Christ, needed much in our own day, that as the root of all evil in the world is the evil heart of man, the only radical cleansing must be that which washes the heart. We must have done with the superficial treatment of mere appearances. Christ's method is to renew the life within. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.