Hypocrisy and the human heart
1 And the Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered together around Him when they had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” 6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 7 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ 8 “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” 9 He was also saying to them, “You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, LET HIM BE PUT TO DEATH’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.” 14 And after He called the multitude to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which going into him can defile him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. 16 “If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.” 17 And when leaving the multitude, He had entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated? “(Thus He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
What is a hypocrite?
The word ‘hypocrisy’ historically described an actor. It means ‘play acting’. A ‘hypocrite’ pretends to be someone else. Jesus here criticises some religious people—the Pharisees and some scribes—for this. They appear very religious in deeds and words, but their hearts are far from God. They concentrate on outward ceremonies—including set routines for ceremonially washing hands, pots and utensils. This is not for hygiene, but for show to impress others. They deny God’s word while pretending to follow it, trying to appear to honour Him. Their traditions ignore and oppose God’s word. One tradition concerns treating needy parents. The Bible insists parents must be honoured and spoken of respectfully. But they refuse to support financially needy mothers and fathers claiming that the money has been given to God instead. That supposed gift to God is called ‘Corban’.
God hates hypocrisy. It prevents people being forgiven and put in right relationship with Him. The hypocrite’s sham involves refusing to admit culpability and the need of forgiveness. This prevents hypocrites coming to God through Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. Hypocrites should ‘get real’, confess their sin to God, forsake it, and ask Jesus to forgive it and enter their hearts and lives. Christ will always forgive and change repentant hypocrites!
The human heart
Jesus teaches our real problem is we are rebel sinners against God. We have wicked hearts. Morally, like sewers, they contain within a nature against God that is filthy in sin. We are not defiled by outward things—such as what we eat—but by the evil selfishness from our wicked and deceitful hearts.
But we can receive God’s needed cleansing within through Christ’s death on the cross. All the filth of our sin was poured on Him there as He took God the Father’s punishment for it in our place. He rose again! Christ comes through the indwelling Holy Spirit to live in our repentant hearts by faith. Our hearts then start to change and respond to God and His word, in a new relationship with God.
Here is the depressing list that Jesus gives of what comes out of our hearts: evil thoughts, fornications [meaning acts of sexual immorality], thefts, murder, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. Yet all of these sins are forgiven us, when we repent of them and put our personal trust in Jesus Christ? 1 John 1:7 says: the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.
When Jesus saves someone, that person receives His cleansing and starts knowing the Holy Spirit’s controlling influence in the heart. By God’s grace deceitful hypocrisy begins to decline and progressively an open and honest person begins to emerge. Does that describe you?
 . Isaiah 29:13 shows this was not a new problem. Cf Mark 7:6.
 . Jeremiah 17:9.
 . Psalm 51:10.
 . Isaiah 53:4-
 . Ephesians 3:17.
 . NASB, like NKJV, translates it thus. NIV uses purifies instead of cleanses.
Questions on Chapter 26
23 Hypocrisy and the human heart
A. How does the refusal of the Pharisees and some of the Scribes to support needy parents show that they are hypocrites? Mark 7:6-
B. What evil comes from the human heart? How can such a filthy heart be cleansed and changed by God? Mark 7:15, 20-
C. Why is it vitally important to deal with the heart first rather than with external matters? Mark 7:20 Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 29:13