'Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are [ the things ] which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.'
During Jesus earthly ministry, one of His most famous actions ( and probably favorite thing to do ) involved challenging & over-turning many of the established religious traditions of the day! Everywhere He went, He challenged the notion that the outward things we do are what matter! Jesus got to the heart of the issue, reminding those who had ears to hear, that it was a heart issue, and if the heart was evil, so would the actions be, but it always starts with the heart, then is usually worked out in our actions!
In our day, we who believe a fulfilled eschatology are in much the same boat ( so to speak ) as Jesus was! As we continue to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Heavenly Father, and realize the presence of His Kingdom, making application of those implications; we find ourselves fighting much the same battle; almost at every step, challenging the traditions of men, and undergoing persecution because of it!
Sometimes, especially in this day & age, it is wise to wash your hands before you eat, and usually even, to wash the fruit or vegetable you are about to eat ( 'you don't know where that's been' )! This, however, was not what Jesus had in mind when He said 'to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.' Physically speaking, we can all attest to the fact that eating, with your hands especially, without 'washing up' first, can cause any number of illnesses, from something as minor as stomach cramps to something major, like death! In Jesus day, this was probably not as much of a problem because they did not have all the chemicals & pesticides that we have now. Even though, I'm sure they had their own problems dealing with 'unwashed hands' besides tradition!
Though the hypocritical scribes & Pharisees were more concerned with their outward traditions, Jesus over-turned this notion by saying it was not that which entered the body that defiled the body, but that the defilement came from within, from their own wicked hearts and minds, which, more often than not, did come out through their actions!
While there are many good & right traditions of men today ( even the Pharisees had some good traditions ), even these must, to whatever extent, be re-examined, re-thought, so that we might learn not to rely on our traditions, but remain open to God's Plan for Us ( the People of God )! If we do not keep an open Heart & Mind to the Spirit Within, we may end up, just as those Pharisees of Jesus day, rejecting the Word of God in favor of our own traditions!
Let us trust Our Father's Wise Bestowment, and determine to remain open to His Plan for His People, for we know that is A Good Plan, and will always turn out for our good, despite our tradition!
Charles Haddon Shank