Inside-Out? Or Outside-In?


The Parable Of The Heart of Man

Mark 7:14-23

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Dirty clothes inside out on the floorAfter he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.”

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

i like this parable very much!  Every parable spoken by Jesus is pretty amazing and powerful.  I like this one because it aligns with the theme of my and my wife’s entire Christian counseling and teaching ministry.  Living from the inside out is the primary thread that weaves through every counseling session and class we facilitate.

What’s Wrong With Outside-In?

If we lived in a pure, sin-free world, living from the outside in wouldn’t be such a huge problem.  But we don’t.  The Bible makes it very clear that EVERYTHING outside of us is fallen.  Not only did Adam and Eve fall when they chose self over God, every created thing fell.  Consequently, everything I bring into my being from outside of myself is fallen — only adding to the fallenness within me.

The American Dream has lulled us into thinking that patriotism and tradition are synonymous with understanding and living God’s word.  Unfortunately, they are often quite different — opposite in fact.  America’s history has been built on our individual and collective commitment to free enterprise, capitalism, hard work, performance-reward, climbing the ladder of success, rugged individualism, and so on.  All good stuff, right?  Wrong!  Adding more fallenness on top of fallenness just makes us even more fallen.

What Makes Inside-Out Better?

Jesus, in the story of the Woman at the Well in John chapter 4, discusses with Photini, the Samaritan woman, how the only water that will allow her to never thirst again comes from an internal source, not from something that can gather from what surrounds them.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 NIV

Inside-out living requires that our source of life within us is drawn from a spring of living water, the Holy Spirit living within our heart.  Jesus uses the metaphor of an underground endless spring of fresh water to illustrate living from the inside, and buckets of limited amounts of water drawn in buckets to illustrate the emptiness of searching for meaning and worth from the outside.

The Condition Of A Man’s Heart

In essence, Jesus’ parable was emphasizing that the listener consider the condition of their heart.  Is it living water that is coming out, pointing others to the same fresh water?  Or is it evil that comes out, the result of a heart that has yet to be transformed through the presence of Jesus within?


Soul health and spiritual maturity cannot be separated.  Our counselors are ordained Christian ministers as well as certified and licensed Christian counselors.  We are able to help you experience freedom from shame, anxietydepression, or marriage / relationship conflict with methods that are purely Christ-centered.  Please click on this link to learn much more about how our CHRISTIAN COUNSELING can help you become a more authentic follower of Christ, and help you find freedom from identity dependence.

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