A Devotional Meditation on Matthew 15:18

But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person.

Matthew 15:18

My Thoughts on the Heart

When Jesus’ disciples questioned him about an earlier teaching, Jesus explained that it was not what went into your body with unwashed hands that defiles you, but what comes out of your mouth from an unclean heart that does. He was taking on the legalistic rules of the Pharisees that only address behavior, and shining a light on what really matters: spiritual transformation in the heart.

I remember learning this verse when I was younger, and thinking it had to do with cursing. And maybe even gossiping. So I tried really, really hard not to do those two things. Because Jesus said so.

Isn’t that ironic? Even when following the teaching of Christ, I was still trying to fulfill a “law” without seeing to my heart.

He doesn’t just want us to put a stopper in the top of a broiling volcano, he wants us to calm the volcano! The words coming out–anger, gossip, judgment, etc–are all symptoms of the deeper problem. Yet how often do we just want to control the symptoms without addressing the core?

In fact, focusing on perfecting our behavior can divert our attention away from our hearts, and even lead us to pride, just as it did the Pharisees.

But behavior modification seems an easier task than healing and protecting our hearts: it’s quantifiable and judge-able. What was Jesus more worried about though? He teaches that “from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander” (Mat 15:19).

So, if we “do” all that is right, but still have “evil thoughts,” we are defiled.

The beautiful truths that a life with Jesus gives us is that he’s there to help us with the hard work of heart change, AND when our hearts change, outward law-abiding becomes a non-issue. The love in our heart is nurtured and grows to eclipse all the things that would defile us. We end up fulfilling the “law” with love.

Suggested Meditation

Below is a look at my dialogue with the Holy Spirit while meditating on this passage. I meditate on the same verse every day for at least a week, and this is just a model to get you started. Meditating on scripture is a very personal journey and relationship with God, but you may find my Meditation Guide helpful. Subscribe now to my Newsletter and get immediate access to a Free Printable Library that includes meditation guidelines, a Meditation Journal Page, Scripture Writing pages, and bookmarks for this verse.

But what comes out of the mouth: Lord, show me what is coming out of me that reflects trouble in my heart. Words, thoughts, actions … I long for my outward life to reflect you to others, and if my heart is not right, my life can’t be right. I am quiet and allow the Spirit to guide me through my interactions with others.

comes from the heart: Spirit, help me continue to expand my heart to every person I meet. Help me love them like you do. Help me put my own self aside in order to love others better. I’m silent and quiet as I imagine the as-yet untouched capacity of my heart.

and this defiles a person: Father, I don’t want to hold onto anything that you revile. Thank you for teaching me, loving me, and forgiving me. Thank you for giving me Christ as a pure example of what it looks like to walk perfectly in your presence. Only through your grace and love can I move one step closer to his example.

Suggested Breath Prayers

For more info on Breath Prayers, visit the article You’re Just a Breath Away From God.

Out of the mouth

Comes from the heart

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volcano symbolizing our hearts needing transformation