East Orange, New Jersey
In Mark 7:18-23 we have an inventory of many sins of which man is guilty. At the head of the list is one we need to carefully consider. That is evil thinking. When we notice the sins that are mentioned in company with evil thoughts, such as adulteries, murders, thefts, etc., we can appreciate the Lord's warning against them.
Jesus is setting forth in this passage the simple doctrine that man's spiritual state is not determined by eating with unwashed hands. Neither does man's physical diet determine his salvation. If these things do not defile a man, what does? The Master says that man is defiled by those things that proceed from the heart, and among them is evil thinking. The man who does not think right cannot act right.
There is a great danger in inward or hidden sins. The people about us do not restrain us in committing inward sins like thinking evil. We might not steal because we are held in check by people around us, but these same people do not have the same restraining influence when it comes to sins that are hidden from public view. Yet sins of the heart are like a cancer that eats up the inside only to reveal itself outwardly when it is too late. Early detection and correction is vital if we are to prevent complete destruction.
No sin can be kept completely on the inside. It will eventually manifest itself in some outward action. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" Prov. 4:23. People who constantly think evil and vulgar thoughts begin to see vulgarity in everything they behold, even when it is not actually there. In time such evil thinking reveals itself in the language of the people. The speech we utter betrays the thoughts we think.
Let us realize that when our mind is filled with evil we do not have time for good. Thinking was intended to be used in good things. We have no time for good when we spend our time with evil. We should not need to be told of the danger of evil thinking. The fact that God tells us it is sinful should be enough.
What are evil thoughts? Evil is defined as: "What is useless, incapable, bad . . . it denotes what is destructive, injurious, evil." Thoughts are defined as: "Purpose or design-the thinking of a man deliberating with himself." Thus we might define evil thoughts as holding a conversation with oneself. Not just a passing fancy unsolicited, but something dwelt upon and mulled over. This helps us to see what our responsibility is.
People often are concerned about their responsibility and when they are responsible for what is in their mind. When evil thoughts are occasioned by anything in us that is voluntary, they are sinful as we willingly engaged in them. When evil thoughts come from negligence and carelessness, when we keep no guard at all over our minds, but give them liberty to roam and ramble wildly, then we are at fault. Evil thoughts may come or start involuntarily being occasioned by things we cannot avoid hearing or seeing, they may come unawares by impulses and notions; but if we entertain them and cherish them, if we allow our fancies to be tickled by them, if we delight in them and find pleasure in them, if we consent to them, they become sinful.
Evil thoughts axe named first in the Lord's list of sins and they are the fountain from which other sins flow. We may erect a stage in our fancies and on this engage in the filthiness we have not the opportunity to bring into outward acts. We may review our past sins with pleasure while not able to outwardly engage in them again.
There are various sins that may be included under a general heading of evil thinking. These are condemned in the New Testament and include anxiety, Mat. 6:25-34; hatred, Gal. 5:20; 1 Jn. 3:15; and lust, Mat. 5:27,28. By getting us to control our thinking, Christ is then cutting off sin at the lowest root. Those who indulge in unchaste imaginations, desires and intentions are guilty before God (2 Pet. 2:14).
How can we avoid evil thinking? First we must purify our hearts (Mat. 5:8). James gives us some thoughts on how to do this in Jas. 4:7,8. We learn from this passage that we must resist the devil. We must put evil thoughts aside immediately and think of something good. We must submit to and draw nigh to God. This is done by faith and obedience. The more of the word of God we have in our heart, the less room we have for evil. We must work to think good thus not allow time for evil thoughts (Phil. 4:8). The more we study the word and the more faith we possess, the less evil will dominate our thinking. At the same time, if we are busy with constructive things we will not allow idleness to breed sinful thoughts. Let us at all times remember that God knows everything about us. No thoughts are covert to Him. All things are naked to His eyes (Heb. 4:13).
From this study we see that the law of Christ is superior to that of the Old Testament in that Christ goes to the heart. We might prevent many outward acts and still have much wickedness within us in our hearts. Inward sins like internal injuries may not be seen, but are often fatal. A tree which appears outwardly healthy may have a rotten heart. So it is with man.
The word of God teaches that only the pure are acceptable with Him. It is only through His power we can conquer. Have we been trying to offer impure lives to God? Let us remember, "Thou, Lord.... knowest the hearts of all men" (Acts 1:24).
Truth Magazine, V:5, pp. 5-6