Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
It is important to understand that nowhere in the Jewish Torah does it say you have to wash your hands or food before you eat. That’s a rule that the elders just kind of made up to get bonus points from God. (They weren’t getting any.) Yet because they loved money, they would pretend they could not afford to care for their parents because they donated so much to the temple. First of all, Jesus makes it clear that’s pretty dumb. Your parents need money more than God. What is God going to do with money? I’m sure He can’t use it in Heaven! Second, their deeds show the sin in their hearts.
All sin and evil in the world comes from humans. It starts in our hearts as greed, lust, anger, envy, or anything else off of Jesus’s list, and it grows until it causes us to act. Nothing from the outside causes us to sin (except possibly a demon), it all comes from us. That’s basically what Jesus is saying here. When there is sin in your heart and it is causes you to say and do things that aren’t righteous, what is the point of worrying if the things outside of you are clean or not? Doesn’t your inside, your heart, matter more?
Now, it’s certainly not bad to was your hands or food before you eat. It helps keep you from getting sick! But we should be much more concerned with keeping our souls healthy. An unclean soul is going to have far worse consequences than unclean hands.