Hand Washing and Scripture
Mark 7. 1 - 23
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
If we ever wondered if scripture were relevant, today's gospel reading should convince us that this living document can speak to us on every step of our journey.
Jesus nails the Pharisees here by saying that washing our hands and eating unclean food are not the big problem. The big problem is the condition of our hearts, the darkness that dwells within...that's what defiles us.
And here we are in a season of pandemic where washing our hands is basically mandatory, so we are sure not to be invaded by the coronavirus. We should all be safe from what might come into us from the outside.
But what the government cannot mandate, what no other soul can make us do, is keep the evil things from dwelling in our hearts. Envy, slander, pride, folly and all else that keeps us from dwelling on and in the Love of God and the peace that passes all understanding, those we have control over.
In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl said,
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
And so Jesus says, it's not about what we eat or how many times we wash our hands, but it's about what exists in our hearts, what our attitudes are, what our motivations are, what we love and how we love.
In this time of quarantine and isolation, I must save my heart from defilement, and no matter how many times I wash my hands, only a clean heart will save me.