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.    
Matthew 23:25-28

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 outward appearances.

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 elders.    
Mark 7:2,3

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 and Mary:

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.    
Luke 10:39-42

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.

The Jones'
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 2:1-4

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 them.

What Is A Manifestation of Christ?
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 outwardly.

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.            
Matthew 7:17

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.            
Deuteronomy 23:12-14

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 disgusting.
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.    
Proverbs 26:14

18 By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.    
Ecclesiastes 10:18

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.    
Proverbs 24:30-34
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 scary tales:

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 on them.

 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' would be:

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.    
Colossians 3:17

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 these standards?
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 likewise.    
Luke 6:31

The charge of hospitality lends a helping hand for guidance.
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 cleanliness principles:

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.

RULE #1:     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 also.

RULE #2:     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?

RULE #3:     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 floor?

RULE #4:     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 hauled away.

In Conclusion
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

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