Verse of the Day – Matthew 15:10-11
When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
Halfway through our text now we see that the Pharisees and scribes have attempted to discredit Jesus by way of His disciples as they were “caught” neglecting a tradition of the day. They did not wash their hands in the proper ceremonial way before eating and were therefore accused of being defiled. This traditional teaching had been elevated to a status equal with the Scriptures and now people were being offended!
Jesus responded to the accusatory question with a question of His own and flatly stated that there were some there using the traditions of men to work around and make void the Law of God. And we must not think that this was a problem only in His day for it is a plague in the church even today. There is nothing new under the sun and for some depraved reason men and women prefer to follow in Eve’s footsteps. For in the garden when she was tempted Eve first was challenged to doubt the Word of God. The serpent started with the question, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And then what did Eve reply? She actually added to the Word of God! Eve was the first legalist. She repeated God’s command but added a phrase of her own. She said, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Did you catch the addition? Don’t eat, and don’t touch!
We have no record that God instructed Adam and Eve not to touch the tree or its fruit. But there we have it. Eve added to the Word of God. She set up an extra rule. Surely this is a good thing, for is you do not touch the fruit you cannot eat the fruit. But in reality Eve went too far. She made her own law and superseded the Law of God.
Theological traditionalists do this even today. They make rules and more rules to help them in obeying the Word of God. This is a good motive but a bad battle plan! For to add to the Word is to make the Word secondary to our own self imposed traditions and soon we follow our word instead of God’s Word. And we often condemn others who do not side with us in our traditions as if they were somehow most assuredly not as spiritual as we for they willingly break through all the barriers of protection we have erected in order that we might remain pure!! What self righteous hogwash. Believing and acting in this way serves only to make us disregard the Law and disobey the Word of God.
But now we hit upon a key that we must remember as we continue to examine the topic of discernment. For Jesus corrects their erroneous tradition by revealing it logical flaw. He states that the Pharisees and scribes as just wrong when they claim that eating with unwashed hands causes us to be defiled. He is simple and plain spoken in His refutation of the false belief that under girds the misleading tradition and falsely binds the consciences of men and women. He states:
Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”
To be sure He wil spend more time explaining the false belief and the truth that opposes it, but before He even said this He prefaced His remarks with this statement:
Hear and understand.
He called the multitude to Him so that they might hear the truth and He started by saying to them, “Hear and understand.” He wanted them to listen, and to comprehend what He was about to say.
This is important. This is discernment in action. Too many in churches, even sound churches, listen really well. They hear the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. They take notes. They buy tapes and CDs. They download, upload, hotsinc, link, and podcast. And they hear, and hear, and hear.
But hearing, as we learned yesterday, is never enough. The Bible is clear, and Jesus makes the point here – we must hear AND UNDERSTAND. We must grasp and comprehend what is being said. And proof that we have heard and understood is seen in how we talk and live. Yes, that is right. If we hear and truly understand the truth then it shows in how we behave.
I have seen it proven in the life of church members who listen every week to sound sermons and challenging Sunday school lessons, they attend Bible studies and ask all the right questions and spur debate and discussion between the saints. They drain the church library of tapes and books and they fill their heads up with all sorts of things that they are listening to, and yet they never change. There is never a marked difference, a moment of maturing, or a time when they repent and amend their behavior. All of the hearing is useless because they do not understand what they hear.
I want to share an example that I borrowed from Charles Spurgeon and used in the wedding sermon I preached last Saturday. In that message I referenced a man who believes his house is on fire. Now think about this:
Imagine – anyone can say, “I believe my house in on fire,” but if he wanders calmly down the hall and goes to bed and falls asleep, it surely does not look like he really believed his house was on fire. If a man’s house is on fire, he will spare nothing to escape!
Now let us think this through – for just as it is not enough to hear, it is likewise not enough to only do! There are many who do what appear to be right and good things but if we could see their hearts we would notice that there are misplaced and sinful and selfish motives at work, so even that which seems good outwardly is actually sinful inwardly. We do not only need to hear and then do what we hear – but we must hear and understand and then do.
See the progressions? Hear, understand, and do. This is discernment. To hear the Word, understand the Word, and then to do the Word. Understanding is crucial to having a proper motive and perspective. It is the difference between knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. We need them all, working together, on order to make sound decisions and live rightly before God. We need knowledge of the facts of God’s Word. We need a right perspective, which is wisdom. And we need understanding. For understanding, that is discernment, bridges the gap between knowledge and wisdom.
Having right information is useless is we do not know what to do with those facts. Having a right perspective likewise is meaningless if we do not know how to translate that perspective into decisions and actions. This then is where knowledge and wisdom meet understanding.
Today, as we read the Scriptures and meditate on them, let us pray that God would grant to us the ability to hear and understand what we read so that we might then act on the truth!
Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)
Bible Reading For Further Study
Recommended Songs for Worship