When I bought my house, it had an inground swimming pool in the backyard. That feature was not every buyer’s “cup of tea,” but it certainly was mine! I love swimming and the vision of being able to jump in the water anytime during the summer months sealed the deal for me!
Once I became the homeowner, pool maintenance was rigorous at first. I learned how to keep the chemicals at the correct levels and keep the liner swept clean. Every year the upkeep got easier. Each season, the pool water was crystal clear and sparkling clean, transforming my backyard into a summer oasis.
After five years of pleasurable backyard swimming, things took a “dive” downward. The Covid pandemic hit in 2020 and thousands of families put in backyard pools because they couldn’t travel. Consumer demand drove the price of chemicals way up. I got married and my husband Barry, who does not like to swim, moved in with me. Soon, the old, weathered pool liner suffered some tearing, and its replacement cost was prohibitive. Barry and I made the tough decision to call it quits on the pool, drain the water out, remove the damaged liner, and fill up the hole with topsoil. It seemed like a gigantic undertaking, but we knew it would benefit us later.
A truckload of topsoil contains seven yards of dirt, the measure used by landscape companies. We figured it would take about 12 truckloads of dirt to completely fill the pool. The first year we used three truckloads. We are now in our second year of the project. Barry has the arduous task of shoveling the dirt from our side yard into a wheelbarrow and then dumping the load into the hole in the backyard. The task of hand-shoveling all that dirt is tedious, but he is making headway.
My job is to climb into the pool wearing knee-high rubber boots and rake out the topsoil to level it. This system of shoveling and raking was working well, and we were making much progress, until we had heavy rain and thunderstorms for several days.
The next sunny day after the hard rain, we continued working and I got into the pool that now had a foot of water in it. I was standing on a higher pile when the dirt under me gave way and I slid into six inches of mud! It was a horrible feeling to be stuck in wet mud and sink down further each time I moved. I couldn’t find any solid ground to gain footing and I didn’t want to step out of the boots, getting my feet and legs full of mud.
All I could do was call out to my pool partner, Barry, to ask him to give me a hand and get me out. He gladly came over and offered a strong arm to pull me and my muddy boots out of the muck. Quickly, I was back on solid ground, waiting for the sun to dry up our inground marsh!
Much like I did with Barry, the Psalmist is noted for crying out to God, asking for His rescue using the same word picture as our muddy pool. “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire; and there is no foothold…Deliver me from the mire; and do not let me sink…” (Psalm 69: 2,14) This person needed a life-saving measure from God to lift him out of his troubles that compared to sinking in a pit of mud.
The pervasive nature of sin within us and other people creates a complicated spiritual cesspool of problems that the Bible calls “the muck and the mire.” Taken together, the combination of serious trouble, difficult emotional entanglements, offenses, lust, purposeful harm, and every other imaginable human evil comprise this murky condition. Jesus warned people that the potential for sinking in this awaiting cesspool resides within us.
He posed this warning when the Pharisees confronted Him, complaining that His Disciples were not following traditional, ceremonial handwashing before they ate their bread. Jesus countered their complaint by saying they were transgressing God’s law of not showing mercy for the sake of their own traditions. Then He publicly addressed the crowd about this discussion, getting to the heart of the matter. “And after He called the multitude to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand. Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.’” (Matthew 15:10-11)
His normal course of teaching was to explain to the Disciples with more clarity. “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated. But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” (Matthew 15:17-20) With this explanation, Jesus nullified the Pharisees’ complaint against the Disciples omission of ceremonial handwashing.
Here is a key point from Jesus’ message. We normally announce something before we do it. The thoughts of our heart float up into our mind, and the mouth speaks the words we formed in our head. Speech defiles us when we reveal the evil inclinations within our heart. For example, say someone’s hate towards another person grows to the point of murder. That person will probably say, “I am going to kill that person!” If left unchecked, they will plan it out, rehearse it, and finally do it.
If they hold themselves back from the actual murder, Jesus points out that merely contemplating the act qualifies as doing it in God’s sight. “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…” (Matthew 5:22) People don’t have to commit murder to be found guilty of murder in God’s courtroom.
The word “defile” in the Greek language means “to pollute or make something unclean.” It is in the context of taking something that is holy and causing it to become profane. Again, this relates to our swimming pool by, say, taking that pure, sparkling clean water and making it muddy by dumping dirt into it. Sin pollutes the innocence of our soul. It makes our soul dirty and defiled before a holy God.
One of the easiest and most common sins comes from our mouth in the manner of “murmuring,” also known as grumbling and complaining. We must distinguish between occasionally voicing our dislikes from habitual, chronic railing against everything and everyone. That is the sin of murmuring that God hates and scripture addresses. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing…” (Philippians 2:14) The Bible says we try God’s patience when we constantly voice our unequivocal unhappiness. (1 Corinthians 10: 9-10)
The Hebrew word for “grumble” means “to abide all night.” In other words, we sin against God with chronic, lengthy, incessant, non-stop complaining, as if staying up all night to harp about something. When we habitually complain, we forfeit any contentment we might otherwise enjoy. We rob ourselves of peace and happiness by focusing so much on what we think is wrong instead of being grateful for what is good, beneficial, and right. Picture again my husband taking a shovel-full of dirt and dumping it into that pool thousands of times. Every time we voice our complaints, we dirty our soul even more.
How do we reverse this process and dig ourselves out? We must catch ourselves by listening to the words we are saying. Do our words defile us? What is coming forth from our heart? Are we slandering people or voicing wrong actions to carry out? Process your own words in your mind, judge them according to God’s Word and, by God’s power, stop speaking the things that defile you.
Like Barry’s strong had reaching down to get me unstuck from the mud, God will use His power to extricate you from habitual sin. “I will extol Thee, O Lod, for Thou has lifted me up…Thou has kept me alive that I should not go down to the pit…” (Psalm 30:1,3)
The Bible gives us the antidote for defilement. “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and the cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) As we admit our faults, our weaknesses, and our wrongdoing to God, He faithfully forgives us and, by the blood of Jesus, cleanses our soul. The defilement process is successfully reversed by our heartfelt confession and repentance. Here is a sample of the right confession from the Book of Psalms. “Against Thee, Thee only I have I sinned, and done what is evil in They sight… Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:4-10)
When God cleanses our soul from the muddy messes we get into, it is permanent and life changing. We feel fresh, pure, and renewed, able to walk with clean boots going forward.