Devotional Thoughts for Today
7:14-9 (NASB): “After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, ‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand:  there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’  When he had left the crowd and entered the house, His disciples questioned Him about the parable.  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,  because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?’ (Thus He declared all foods clean.)”
The principal of the missionary school that my children attended in Mexico would walk around with a ruler to measure the lengths of skirts worn by some girls to ensure that it fell within the school regulations. Maybe to some, only “bad girls” would wear a short skirt.
The disciples also were deemed “bad” by the Pharisees who, after seeing that they ate “food with hands that were . . . unwashed” (Mk. 7:2), complained to Jesus: “Why don’t your disciples live according to the traditions of the elders?” (5). That’s when Jesus told the above parable to those whom he described as “people [who] honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (6).
This parable is easy to interpret because Jesus himself interprets it: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,  deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” (Mk. 7:20-2 NASB).
The idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is what is meant here. But certainly, the cover is important. Once, I told a woman in my church’s praise team that her short skirt could hinder immature men. It was said gingerly because I didn’t want her to feel judged as if she were a “bad” Christian, because she wasn’t. While the cover is important, what’s inside—the heart—is more so!
So, how is our heart? Jesus agreed with Jeremiah who said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9). Sometimes, those who take holiness seriously become disappointed, even shocked by their occasional slip-ups. Provided that they aren’t major blunders (e.g., adultery, crime), let that remind you that apart from constantly “fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2), and being “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), sinning is our default mode. So, instead of spending too much time picking your dress for church, pray: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).
O God, how often I make the mistake of thinking that I am so pure and holy, especially when I compare myself to the worst examples around me. How often I must have grieved the Spirit with my presumption of innocence. Forgive me, O Lord, for I’ve no righteousness of mine apart from that of Christ. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 56
Lunch Break Study
Jn. 7:24 (ESV): “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
2 Cor. 13:10 (NIV): “This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.”
Read Acts 23:2-5 (ESV): “And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.  Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?”  Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?”  And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
Question to Consider
- Some say that Christians shouldn’t judge at all (“Do not judge, or you will be judged [Matt. 7:1]). What is Jesus’ understanding on this matter?
- What is an essential foundation for making the right judgment?
- We all err (except Christ) when making judgments; what should we do when that happens?
- Jesus was against self-righteous and condemnatory as well as superficial (i.e., based solely on appearance but lacking evidences) judgment of others. He is not against making the right judgment, which is based on, among others, the factors of the matter.
- It has to be the motive: it is to build the erring person instead of tearing him down; instructive, not punitive. Thus, praying for that person before and after “rightly judging” that person is crucial.
- Who wouldn’t be upset after being slapped in the mouth? And Paul’s response was natural, as would be for most men. Nevertheless, when told that he was speaking against the High Priest (which the law didn’t permit), Paul immediately apologized on account that he didn’t know who Ananias was. When we make a mistake of misjudging people, we should immediately own up to it and say, “I am sorry.”
Whether we had a good or bad day, is sometimes decided by the type of interactions we had with others. Was there a moment today when you felt like someone at home or office needed to be “judged”? How did you handle it? Sometimes, the best way is to wait, in prayer. Think about God who puts up with us everyday—that’s called grace.