October 12, 2016 • Life for Leaders
[Jesus] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
Today’s devotion continues the conversation we began yesterday. Jesus was clashing with the Pharisees about what defiles a person. Is someone defiled by what he or she takes in (through eating)? Or is someone defiled by what comes out of a person (from the heart)?
Jesus weighs in on the “what comes out” side of the argument: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (7:20-22).
Usually, when I come to a list of evils like this one, I tend to read quickly and move on. But this time I slowed down to reflect. What about this list strikes me? Lord, what do you want to teach me as I consider this list of evils in the heart?
Here’s what I have discovered about my own heart. I tend to rank sins according to “really, really bad” and “not so bad.” Conveniently, my own sins fall in the “not so bad” category. For example, I have not thought about or engaged in some of the evils Jesus mentions, murder, for example (bracketing, for a moment, what Jesus said about murder in Matt 5:21-22). To my knowledge, I haven’t stolen anything (at least not recently). So, I can read Jesus’s list of heart defilements and come away feeling pretty good about myself. At least I haven’t done really bad stuff.
But I have indulged in envy at times. I would confess to arrogance as well, and probably plenty of folly. By dismissing these evils as “not so bad” I avoid the incisive challenge of Jesus to me. I miss the opportunity to confess the evils of my own heart and to allow the Lord to forgive and cleanse me.
Maybe you can relate to what I’m saying here. If so, then I invite you to consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
If you were to look honestly into your heart, what evils lurk there?
How are these evils sometimes expressed?
Are you willing to confess these sinful attitudes, rather than to excuse them?
Do you truly desire a pure heart? Why or why not?
Gracious God, how easily I excuse my sins. I am so quick to minimize the evil in me, often by maximizing the evil of others. Forgive me! Help me, I pray, to see myself truly. Help me to acknowledge the evil in my heart so that I might confess it to you. Cleanse me, I pray. Deliver me from evil.
I pray once again in the words of Psalm 51:
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast mea from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: What is Righteousness? (Matthew 5:17-48)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.