When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 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.” (Mark 7:17-23)
Where Does Evil Come?
Adam and Eve experienced the best of both worlds and the evil of the fallen world. They are the only people in the history of humanity that knew what it was like to live in a perfect world and then see firsthand what evil will do. When they disobeyed God in the garden, they felt ashamed and hid from the presence of the Lord. That feeling will pale in comparison to what would happen years later when the firstborn son killed his brother. The murder of Abel was not the first sin in the fallen world. Long before Cain was filled with wrath at his brother, sin had challenged the souls of Adam and Eve. Sin began to multiply as children were born, and the knowledge of good and evil filled their hearts. Cain did not sin for the first time in his life in killing Abel. His heart was on a downward spiral of jealousy, pride, anger, and wrath. A greater sin was crouching at the door, eager to control the spirit of Cain.
Early man understood the will of the Lord to sacrifice offerings in worship. Cain and Abel offered the best of what they had, but Abel’s heart was pure, and Cain’s was not. The Lord did not accept the offering of Cain because his works were evil. It was not the offering of the fruit of the ground God rejected. Cain had evil in his heart. God saw what men could not see. The Lord knew Cain’s path would lead to murder, and He warned Cain. One day Cain and Abel were talking. They were in a field together. Cain was seething with anger, and he attacked Abel and killed him. The scriptures do not reveal the manner Cain killed Abel. He could have picked up a rock or used a knife or a weapon of some kind. Cain killed Abel because of what was in his heart, not his hand.
Jesus describes the nature of evil as a problem of the heart. He uses a parable to define sin when the heart is filled with evil. Eating a piece of chicken does not defile a man because it is consumed and then expelled. Food does not enter the heart. Evil comes from the heart. Sexual immorality does not come from the outside but from a heart filled with the evil desires of the flesh. When a man commits fornication or adultery, punishing the flesh will not address the problem. Sin dwells in the heart. Lust is a byproduct of an evil heart. Whatever Cain used to kill Abel did not kill Abel; the evil heart of Cain killed Abel. Murder is not found in the object but in the heart that has been trained to disregard human life. Herod had no compulsion to send his army into Bethlehem to kill every child two years old and under because his heart was filled with wickedness.
The heart is where sin begins. Whatever motivates a man to commit adultery, murder, steal, lie, or any such thing is something that is first seeded in the heart. The focus is often on the object of the sin rather than the cause of the evil. Cutting off the hand because a man steals may be an object lesson for others but fails to appreciate the real problem in the thief’s heart. Until the heart is changed, the world will continue in evil. All the rhetoric condemning the object of sin will have no impact until God is put back in the heart. It should come as no surprise that every society that methodically removes God from the heart will suffer the consequences of evil hearts killing others. History bears witness to the fallacy of human wisdom trying to unravel the mystery of evil. The presence of evil is the absence of righteousness. Take God away, and man becomes an animal that will devour one another with little or no consciousness. The greatest solution to evil will come when the Lord returns. Lord Jesus, come quickly.