“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts adulteries fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mar 7:21-23).
Jesus uttered these words moments after the scribes and Pharisees criticized His disciples for eating bread without first washing their hands (Mark 7:2). It was an important ritual for symbolic and practical reasons. But Jesus did a clear analysis of this «fault.» He explained that the impurity of eating without washing the hands first is insignificant compared to the profanity produced by the thoughts that lead to immoral behaviors. What comes from the inside is what really defiles the man (vv. 19-20). In other words, what good does eatting with clean hands do (or being very pious to others) when your heart is full of evil, lust, envy, calumny, etc?
Cognitive psychotherapy experts would agree with today’s text and would confirm that their patients fall into pathological behaviors because of their improper way of thinking. For example, when someone repeatedly worries beyond reasonable limits about things that could happen, it absorbs most of their time, decreases their good mood and takes away their strength which makes them more depressed and anxious. The same happens at the moral level. When we think about a sinful action, recreate its details and search for arguments that downplay it, it is very probable that we give in to temptation. Clinical psychologists teach their patients to identify improper thoughts as soon as they are produced in order to categorically discard them and replace them with positive and adaptable matters. A Christian can also benefit from using such method when temptation assaults him by replacing immoral thoughts with biblical promises, a song or a thankful prayer to the Creator.
The real battle with addictive behaviors is fought in the mind. Thus, it is very important to focus on the mental processes in order to make real change. Likewise, the Christian’s battle between right and wrong takes place in his mind. What kinds of thoughts get you closer to God? What specific topics encourage you to serve others when you think of them? Which of them make you testify about God’s work in your life?
Carefully observe the things that run through your mind, and ask God to inspire you to maintain those which get you closer to Him and motivate you to love your fellowmen.