There's an old
saying many think is in the Bible: "Cleanliness is next to godliness."
It's not. Actually, you could put up a pretty good argument that a
clean and tidy person isn't neces-sarily very godly. Look at the
Pharisees. Jesus condemned them with:
25 Woe unto you, scribes
and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and
of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26
Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and
platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 Woe unto you,
scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited
sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full
of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also
outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of
hypocrisy and iniquity.
Being clean and tidy is something outward. You might
dress in quite a respectable fashion, and still be very dirty inside.
This is obvious to most, but we still get caught up in leaning on
What's in the heart should manifest itself on the outside. The question
then must come up, "What should the outside of a godly man and woman be
like? What should their home look like? Is it all right for a Christian
to live in filth? Is 'cleanliness is next to godliness' an accurate
saying in this context?"
Watch Out For The Pharisees The Inside
I remember hearing about a lady who kept her house immaculate, but her
husband was terrorized. One day he had some friends over. She came in
and went ballistic, screaming at him for messing up her house. Her
showmanship didn't take kindly to everyday living. If you were to come
over and visit this lady, you might be impressed when you entered her
home. You might comment on what a wonderful job she did in keeping
house. The crystal shines, not a speck of dust anywhere. Not a crooked
pillow on the couch. Maybe not even litter in the trash can. What was
really in her heart, what this woman was really like, came out when her
husband invited some friends over. Not having been present to witness
such a scene, you'd be ignorant of what kind of person you were really
addressing. I've just introduced you to a modern day Pharisee. The
Pharisees were meticulous to the detail of washing plates and tables
just before eating off them. They condemned Jesus along these lines:
2 And when they saw some
of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen,
hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except
they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the
Jesus set the matter right by pointing at the heart,
which they ignored. The Pharisee doesn't want to get hung up on the
inside. There's too much to keep straight outside.
Jesus' wonderful priority was also brought out in the account of Martha
39 And she had a sister
called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. 40 But
Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said,
Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?
bid her therefore that she help me. 41 And Jesus answered and said unto
her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which
shall not be taken away from her.
This is a hard lesson to learn. The inward need is
so vital, that sometimes the outward concern must suffer, so the inward
isn't neglected. The Marthas have a hard time putting up with this.
They're so ready to criticize the Marys, when the rebuke belongs the
other way around.
I've heard some say, "It may be used and worn, but is it clean? There's
no excuse for it being dirty!" This sounds pretty good, but usually
isn't true. This smacks a little of "keeping up with the Jones'."
Usually, these people are very impressed with signs of wealth and
prosperity. They may claim they don't care if it's new, but observe
their car situation. Do they live from paycheck to paycheck, yet get a
new car to strap their budget? The Jones' appearance means a lot more
to them than they admit.
I remember a time of great poverty in my life. I was a grounds
maintenance worker. Even buying used shirts at the thrift store was a
stress on our budget. Since I painted and did a lot of stuff at work
that was hard on clothes, I wore them down fairly quickly and had to
make them last as long as I could. One day I was working in the hall,
outside the break room. Two other employees were talking about someone
they saw. The one described his boots, well-worn, etc. and said how
such disgusted her. The other adamantly agreed. They said something
about self-respect. I can't remember the whole conversation now, but I
do remember feeling ashamed about my boots. There was nothing I could
do about it. My shirt had paint on it and some various stains, same
with my boots and pants. They were well worn, but I couldn't afford new
ones yet. Such stains and paint, etc. were hazards of the profession. A
new shirt would last one week in its pristine condition, if that. It's
easy to judge others on our basis of "respectable" versus "disdainful".
James warned of this very dangerous habit:
1 My brethren, have not
the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of
persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring,
in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3
And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto
him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou
there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in
yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
James called such criticisms "judges of evil
thoughts". Pharisaical judgment is both hurtful and misplaced. It takes
no consideration (in reality) for poverty, and makes appearance number
one. It doesn't examine the heart, and disdains those who don't imitate
What Is A Manifestation of Christ? Sanitation
We've seen outward appearances can be very deceiving. This doesn't mean
the Christian, who loves God and is pursuing Him, will be
unrecognizable outwardly, however. What's inside will manifest itself
17 Even so every good
tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil
If holiness and beauty is inside, they will manifest
themselves outwardly in every way. We may be poor and our home, car and
appearance reflect that, but we'll not be careless about such things as
sanitation. Even in the Old Testament, there was a law addressing this:
12 Thou shalt have a
place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: 13 And
thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou
wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back
and cover that which cometh from thee: 14 For the LORD thy God walketh
in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies
before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean
thing in thee, and turn away from thee.
If purity and holiness abide in our hearts, we won't
be negligent about things like sanitation. This lack of care has one
primary source: laziness. The work of cleaning up, the effort to stay
sanitary, is more than a lazy hearts willing to give. The detest of
filth is not greater than the detest of work. This really is
The home might not be perfect, remember the Martha and Mary priorities.
Look closely though. Is the wasted time, that could have been spent
maintaining sanitation, consumed in watching TV, hour on end? Maybe it
is consumed in over sleeping:
14 As the door turneth
upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.
18 By much
slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands
the house droppeth through.
30 I went by the
field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of
understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and
nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was
broken down. 32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it,
and received instruction. 33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a
little folding of the hands to sleep: 34 So shall thy poverty come as
one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
The scriptures don't spend time warning about this sick state for
nothing. These are only a few of the verses addressing sluggards. Is
the time for cleaning lost in pursuits that indicate the pleasures of
laziness? Lest you think I'm getting too picky, I'll tell you some
1) I saw one home that had doggie logs all over the carpet, some whole
and some mushed in. No one cleaned them up.
2) Another had all the dishes dirty with past meals culturing something
3)In another place, the dirty laundry pile never made it into the
washer - it became the kitty litter box.
I hope you're not thinking, "Oh no, did he come by while I was gone?"
These are just some of the many examples of extreme filth. The kind of
filth that Moses' law warned against. It's not befitting of holiness.
The letters WWJD became a popular symbol. They stand for "What Would
Jesus Do?" This is the question we should be asking ourselves in every
area of our lives, including cleanliness.
Go ahead, ask yourself:
*Can you see Jesus living in a home with dog piles all over the carpet
and some mushed in?
*Can you see all the dishes piled up in His sink, with weeks of
bacterial culture thriving on them?
*Can you see His dirty laundry piled high in front of the washer with
the cats using it as a litter box?
The questions lead to obvious conclusions. The following verses show
how our sanitary habits do reflect on Jesus. They should be as Jesus'
31 Whether therefore ye
eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
17 And whatsoever ye do
in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to
God and the Father by him.
I think this is one of the easiest ways to determine if our level of
cleanliness is up to God's standards. How do we see Jesus living under
If the above WWJD doesn't cut it, then consider this alternative - CPS:
The neighbor called the Child Protective Services telling them your
house isn't clean enough for a child to live in. You got a tip they're
coming moments before they get there. You look around the house, to see
what they are about to see. With your children at stake, are you
willing to bet your level of cleanliness against that? The inspector is
knocking, you better answer the door.
The Principal Of Hospitality Guiding Rules
We've seen the Pharisee style of cleanliness, which is to be avoided.
We've seen the lack of sanitation problem, which is unacceptable.
Having considered our level should match Jesus' and be to God's glory,
what are specific levels that are biblically appropriate?
9 Use hospitality one to
another without grudging.
1 Peter 4:9
31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them
The charge of hospitality lends a helping hand for
Do you keep your house in a state, that if guests suddenly arrived, you
could welcome them in unashamed? Jesus wouldn't turn people back or
make them feel unwelcomed (barring those like 2 John 9-11).
Using the principle of hospitality, let's work up some general
Let's assume you were visiting someone. You had shorts on. As you were
sitting on their couch, you notice little black dots appearing all over
your legs - FLEAS! Now, put the hospitality rule into effect. How would
you feel about continuing to visit? If they invited you to spend the
night, how would you feel? The average person would be repulsed and
would try to quickly escape.
Pest problems need to be watched for and dealt with.
Now, we're visiting someone with a dirty odor. For the resident, they
no longer notice it, or it no longer offends them. I remember reading
about Eskimos in Greenland in the 1950s. The people never took baths in
their whole life. When an outsider entered their home, the odor was
powerful, to say the least. After a few hours, it wasn't quite as
noticeable. The Eskimos weren't bothered by it at all. We need to be
aware of our acclimatizing, and be on the alert to odors. We don't
enjoy bad odors, and need to aim at making our guest's visits pleasant
Possibly offensive odors need to be hunted down and eradicated.
Off on another visit, you enter a grimy home. You will want to be
careful where you sit. You have clean clothes on and would like to keep
them that way. You don't go out in the field and sit just anywhere in
your suit or dress. Some homes are no better. Can your guests enter
your home, sit in comfort and not have to watch carefully lest they
soil their clothes?
Grime, spill residue, and general goop needs to be cleaned up.
When you're invited to someone's home, you like to be able to
comfortably sit down, not be wedged in between the laundry and the
potato chip packages on the couch. Your home should be inviting. A
place people take pleasure to be in. Do they have to tread carefully,
lest they step on something and break it because stuff is all over the
Pick up and put away items in their proper places. Put garbage in
the garbage can.
The Price Is Higher Than The Sticker Says
I believe these four simple rules cover most areas. There's one more
consideration. It's so easy to accumulate things. You can come home
every summer weekend from garage sales with your car trunk full of
treasures. Remember, you have to clean these additional goodies. For
every item you get, remember how much of your life is going to be spent
in dusting, washing, and moving that item. One item may not seem much,
but what about when that one has multiplied to 40? It adds up to a lot
of time in which you are a slave to that item. Think of how much more
profitably your time could have been used if it didn't have to be spent
just maintaining it.
I heard about one horder who accumulated so much, she had to buy
another trailer home to live in (using the one as storage). Eventually,
she filled that too, so all she had was a wall of stuff to the ceiling
with a narrow walkway through. These good deals can be a curse.
Remember the important thing with Martha and Mary. Pursue this. When
you die, that which you've gotten in that number one pursuit, will be
all you can take with you. That pile of stuff you have left behind will
simply become a burden for your children to have to clean up and have
The problem of cleanliness has become a major problem in our society.
It appears to me that as the moral fabric of our society breaks down,
so the lack of cleanliness increases. An interesting study: "What was
the level of cleanliness in different nations, before they fell, in the
past? When the nation Israel came into the promised land, were the
houses dirty?" It would be interesting to know.
You may wonder how valid the saying, "cleanliness is next to godliness"
is. We have had a look at this, but can you say the opposite,
"filthiness goes with godliness"? There are those filthy people out
there who say they're godly. This new expression is what they're
saying. If you happen to be one of those people, I hope you know better
by now. Maybe it's time to dig out that old vacuum cleaner and start
filling the dumpster. Happy cleaning!
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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible