Matthew 15:10-11 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Matthew 15:10
  • Matthew 15:11

Jesus summons the crowd to Him and addresses the Pharisees’ charge against His disciples with a proverb. It teaches that it is the inner harmony from the heart that demonstrates a man’s holiness, rather than external rituals which are for show.


The parallel gospel account of this event is found in Mark 7:14-15.


After turning the Pharisees from Jerusalem away, Jesus called the crowd to gather around Him. Jesus was about to address the Pharisees’ accusation against His disciples.

The Pharisees had claimed that Jesus’s disciples were unclean and by extension that Jesus was an illegitimate moral authority because they violated the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before they ate bread (Matthew 15:2). In His response, Jesus eviscerated the Pharisees and exposed their moral hypocrisy, but He never denied their charge.

Now He asked the crowd to Hear (attentively listen) and understand (carefully consider) an original parable-like proverb that He was about to tell them. This was Jesus’s response that exonerated Himself from the Pharisee’s slander.

It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.

Jesus was explaining to them that it was not physical uncleanliness or what a man eats that makes a man unholy or sinful. Rather it is what he says (and does). It is a man’s words that condemn him, not his diet or eating habits.

By asking the crowds to hear and understand this, Jesus was inviting them to recognize the greater value of the inner righteousness of the heart rather than the exterior value of what’s on the outside. Words often reveal the intentions of the heart. Jesus said it this way in the gospel of Luke:

 “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”
(Luke 6:45)

He was explaining to the crowd that righteousness is not a superficial adornment that the Pharisees practiced. It primarily flows from the inside out and not from the outside in.

Jesus further elaborates on this short parable in Matthew 15:15-20.

Biblical Text

15:10-11 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

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