Q. What did Jesus mean in Matt. 15:11 by saying it isn’t what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him but what comes out of it?
A. This discussion began when the Pharisees wondered why the Lord’s disciples didn’t conduct a ceremonial hand washing before eating (Matt. 15:2). The Lord’s point was that observing such a ritual would not in and of itself make a person ceremonially clean, because many of the words we speak with our mouth originate as feelings in our heart. And that’s where any spiritual uncleanliness we harbor resides, not on our hands. Jesus explained this more fully in Matt. 15:18-20;
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”