August 29, 2021 - Heart Check - A Reflection on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. —For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. — So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, "Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?" He responded, "Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition." He summoned the crowd again and said to them,  "Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile. "From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."

Have you ever gone for a medical check up? One of the things they always do is check the condition of your heart. Because when that thing stops beating, we’re done, and so it helps to keep it as healthy as possible. However, it is not just clogged arteries and poor food habits that lead to a bad heart; it is also the evil that we allow to grow in it. And there are many things we permit to grow unchecked. Jesus speaks of a few. Do a mental tick if any apply to you? 

Evil thoughts. Unchastity. Theft. Murder. Adultery. Greed. Malice. Deceit. Licentiousness. (That’s being promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters.) Envy. Blasphemy. Arrogance. Folly. Jesus says that all these evils come from within and they defile. Paul also speaks about them in his letter to the Galatians following it up with a stern warning: I warn you that those who live like this will not enter the Kingdom of heaven (Galatians 5:21).

I want us to really introspect about these things today. Why? Because just like it helps us to have a physical health check, it helps to do a spiritual heart check as well. If something is wrong, we can fix it. When we go to the doctor for our health check up, if he finds some problems, he suggests steps to remedy them, right? And don’t we fix it? Even if it means being cut open? All this just to extend our lives by a few more years on earth. Shouldn’t we show more concern for what follows this life? A life unending?

So, if we are having any issues with any of these things that we looked at, how do we rectify them? Let me give you a very easy way. Think of every sin as being gangrenous. Imagine you have a foot infected with gangrene. Not only does your foot look terrible, it smells terrible. Would you let it remain untreated, or would you take steps to fix it, knowing that if you don’t, you might eventually need to cut off your leg to prevent the infection from spreading to save the body. 

Paul advises us to “hate what is evil” (Romans 12:9). We need to look upon sin as something gangrenous, something that needs to be ruthlessly eliminated from our lives. And the moment we do that, the rest becomes easy. We go to the doctor who, of course, is Jesus, repenting for our sins, accepting his forgiveness, and then allowing ourselves to be led by his Spirit to a healthy spiritual life.

So, do a heart check today. And may you live a long, healthy life here on earth and then for all eternity in heaven.