Jesus Is After the Heart Behind Our Habits

Matthew 15

Key Verse | Matthew 15:8

"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me."



Scripture | Matthew 15

Traditions and Commandments

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 1 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word 2 of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

What Defiles a Person

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. 3 And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 4 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. 5

Jesus Heals Many

29 Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 38 Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.


[1] 15:5 Or is an offering
[2] 15:6 Some manuscripts law
[3] 15:14 Some manuscripts add of the blind
[4] 15:17 Greek is expelled into the latrine
[5] 15:28 Greek from that hour

Jesus Is After the Heart Behind Our Habits

Devo | Matthew 15

Growing up, I firmly believed my worth was tied to my performance. The harder I worked, the more success and affirmation I received. Sadly, when we live in a performance-based society, it can become...

Growing up, I firmly believed my worth was tied to my performance. The harder I worked, the more success and affirmation I received. Sadly, when we live in a performance-based society, it can become easy for us to translate this same thinking into our walk with God. 

For all of history, God has desired to know His people and be in relationship with them. Yet, as humanity, we were quick to try to make a name for ourselves apart from God by building towers to the heavens and conquering nations by our own power and strength. If you are anything like me, it can become easy to correlate your performance with God's view of you—the more we do 'for God,' the more He loves us.

This theory of how God functions, however, could not be further from the truth. As Christ enters the scene in Matthew, He proclaims the good news that our traditions, laws, and performance can't save us, and He seeks to draw us to surrender our hearts instead. 

In Matthew 15, we see Christ call those who have been living lives of obedience to man-made traditions to lift their eyes and examine their hearts. He points out the hypocrisy of a disconnected heart that brings "honor" to God through actions. That is not what constitutes a relationship with God. It can be easy to look back at those who lived during that time and feel like we are nothing like them, but I would argue this is not the case. We may not have specific laws and traditions to follow, but many of us are quick to create them for ourselves.

While we are called to obedience, it will never come through working hard to follow what God commands. It will ONLY come through an abiding relationship with God. What we need is a heart transformation, not a behavior modification. 

I pray for our hearts today—that we would walk closely with our God and in turn live a life of love and obedience.

Discussion Questions

1. How have you seen performance creep into your relationship with God?

2. Read Ephesians 2:8-9. In your own words, how do we come to be in a relationship with God?

3. What is one way today that you can act in accordance with Christ that may be outside of your normal routine?

Meet Shae Grooms

I was born and raised in the great state of Oklahoma. I am grateful to have grown up with parents who set an example for what it looks like to walk with Christ and pursue Him. I came to a real understanding of who God is and what He has done for me when I was in fifth grade.   

I love time spent with family and friends (particularly outdoors) and will say "yes" on a whim to any travel adventure. Lastly, I love a good game of putt-putt or pickleball and am a big fan of In-N-Out Burger.

9 Comments available

Linda Green 1 day ago

Your key verse makes me think of how easy it is to think that asking questions of God is bad, and it is good to always act like I’m on board with God’s plans. But God welcomes my questions, especially when I have an attitude of humility. Even when I don’t get a specific answer, His response is always not to be afraid and to trust Him. Sometimes my best “work” is to be still and worship Him. Like the little child with arms outstretched and a big smile, sure of their parent’s love!

Hugh posted a great podcast on Rest from the Collective that I’ll attach in case you missed it!

Michael Scaman 1 day ago

Isaiah 29 starts calling Jerusalem Ariel, Ariel “lion, Lion” in a strong way… but no more… more like the whispers of a ghost.

Isaiah 29 laments Jerusalem went down and down ad down until it got to Isaiah 29:13 which Jesus quotes. These people give lip service. They set aside God’s rules for their traditions.

In Isaiah keeps dropping. Ignoring the creator. Not being able to read the scriptures.

Sue Bohlin 1 day ago

Thank you, Shae!

I wryly read the account of the second feeding of a huge group, noting that Matthew arranged two of Jesus’ tests almost back to back. First He tested the Canaanite woman’s faith, which she passed with flying colors, then He tested the Twelve to see if they were listening and watching the last time He fed a large crowd.


But He doesn’t yell at them. He knows He’s still training them, and training takes patience for the coach. What struck me this time, though, was the similarity of turning 7 loaves and a few fish into a satisfying meal for 8000 or so hungry people, to His first miracle of creating the universe out of nothing. Of course, there were no human witnesses for THAT, but the disciples got to see, up close and personal, basically the same thing. I’ll call it “almost ex nihilo.”

Dylan Jackson 1 day ago

Awesome devotional, Shae!! So much truth there.

This chapter of Matthew screams out to me our need to be rooted in God’s Word, not just relying on those shepherding us to feed us the Word (or worse, their twisting of the Word, which is all too common in the world and has been since Genesis). If we blindly follow those leading us, we cannot correct their course if they start to waiver (Matthew 15:14), and we open ourselves up to vain worship and glorification of man-made, Godless commandments (Matthew 15:9).

Thankful once again for Join the Journey and the opportunity to be rooted in God’s Word with this community!

Greg Jones 1 day ago

1/1 Shea, I love your devotional.

“Growing up, I firmly believed my worth was tied to my performance. The harder I worked, the more success and affirmation I received.”

I tie what your saying to what was tempting to Jesus back in chapter 4. I tie what was tempting to Jesus to what tempted everyone he knew. It tempts us today.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”Matthew4:8-9

Greg Jones 1 day ago


I see us today living in the splendor of one of those kingdoms. That splendor comes through hard work and accomplishments. I don’t see the devil as hard work, success, and affirmations. And that can create a real problem or temptation.

I see abiding with God as living on an edge between being successful, and worshiping successfulness. More than just quote scripture to fight temptation I see Jesus making a choice concerning his ministry which is about to begin. Then throughout his ministry I see him teach outward from what tempts him, with parables that picture scriptures. With his followers, he will live on the edge of what tempts his followers, and his non-followers Hebrews4:15.

“‘He will command his angels concerning you…”Matthew4:6, tempting/tipping point/a literal edge.

“…and angels came and attended him”Matthew4:11, success/abiding

Jermaine Harrison 1 day ago

Thanks for sharing Shae! Such challenging truth. The Pharisees had elevated following traditions over obeying truth. They looked the external part, but were far from God upon closer inspection. Lord, help me and anyone who reads this to have an inside out faith: internal transformation informing external conduct.

Hugh Stephenson 2 days ago


Q3 – I love the quotation form 12 step program, “If nothing ever changes then noting ever changes.” So what can I change?

When asked how he was able to be so effective over a long period of time Warren Buffet said, “I so NO to virtually everything.”

This RTRQ from 2016 was a huge blessing. Not earth-shattering revelation but a great way to understand what my purpose is and how to use it to say YES or NO with conviction.

Hugh Stephenson 2 days ago


GM Shae. Love your title linking hearts and habits. Also, your Key Verse quoting the link to Isaiah 29:13. I link to Proverbs 4:23 and to Psalm 51:10.

Q1 – Very thought provoking. My friends on long-term mission talk about the challenges of evangelism in a “shame and honor” culture with practices like honor killing, (

There are many times where I think the western culture version of this are the “soul killing” works/performances to measure up to our own version of “shame and honor”. Even worse, there are too many “shoot the wounded” stories of family tragedies like divorce, suicide and drug over dose that are met with a directive to leave that local church.

For me, after salvation, (2013/2014), I volunteered for everything. We call it getting “Waterlogged”. The state of abiding, rest, Shalom etc was elusive.

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