Sometimes I surprise myself with the foul words that come out of my mouth. Thankfully, such words are coming out less and less. But still, I have impure thoughts that I know I should not have.

I know of people who spew evil and violence out of their mouths regularly. Interestingly, some make it sound like great wisdom and insight. As I read this passage from the Gospel of Mark 7:18 and the parallel in Matthew 15:11, it becomes clear that some of the most charismatic leaders in world history were also the most dangerous.

Jesus' point here is how the Pharisees and teachers of the law (Mark 7:1) had elevated traditions that contradicted the spirit of God's law to a level of piety higher than God's law itself, causing those who followed them to believe they were holy and righteous when they were, in fact, rejecting God by their words and actions.

What these Pharisees were caught up in was that their ritual washing ensured they were clean and that those who didn't perform the ritual were unclean. Jesus taught that eating with clean hands and clean utensils was not what made a person clean, but instead, it was the cleanliness of their hearts which made them clean, and that type of cleanliness is revealed in their words and actions.

Jesus then details thirteen evidences of what comes from our hearts:

  • Evil thoughts
  • Sexual immorality
  • Theft
  • Murder
  • Adultery
  • Greed
  • Malice
  • Deceit
  • Lewdness
  • Envy
  • Slander
  • Arrogance
  • Folly

So when you speak, or when you listen to your own thoughts, objectively compare yourself to this list - discover what's coming out of you, so you can learn self-control. Then, apply these same criteria - again, objectively - to those you know and see what you discover.

Practice this on yourself and others and you will achieve the rare skill of discernment.