Who has heard the adage, “Cleanliness is next to godliness”? Most of us have, and hopefully most of us know it is completely wrong. Nowhere in the Bible does it compare the physical cleanliness of a person, room, dish, or yard to living a God-honoring life.
However, there is still a place for cleanliness in our lives. For some, it is of the utmost importance. For others, it is okay if only the important areas of our lives are clean (‘important’ is subjective, of course); and, for some, showers and vacuums are just not prioritized.
Though not as important as finding a spouse who shares your beliefs in God and following hard after Christ, it is in your best interest to find someone who shares your preferences on appropriate levels of personal hygiene and home/vehicle/yard/office cleanliness. Compared to finances, fidelity, honesty, and godliness, it may seem insignificant; but cleanliness and hygiene affect our daily lives and can cause frustration and conflict when couples do not value them at similar levels.
Our friends used to have a plaque which read, “Our aim is to keep this bathroom clean. Your aim will help.” ~smile~ This couple values cleanliness and order at a similar level; and, with five sweet children, their similar outlook helps them stay sane in their environment. Unfortunately, I do not share their need for consistent order (though, I wish I did!). My home usually must reach a distinct level of chaos before I become motivated to organize it.
Once, to avoid embarrassment when my tidy couple friends were coming over, I shoved a pile of dirty dishes into the oven to hide them. Eric said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” I replied, “I’ve done this before, it’s fine.” Of course, I promptly forgot all about them and preheated the oven the next day. Neither Eric nor I are fans of the toxic, melting plastic smell. (Ah, memories… ahem.)
For the most part, Eric and I can tolerate similar levels of disorder. We can sleep soundly in a messy room and do not have to leave the house in perfect condition before going away on a trip. However, Eric needs a clean kitchen. He is not at ease if the kitchen is unkempt. He and I do not share this need; but, if that is all he requires, I can certainly oblige… occasionally… theoretically – okay, it is still a struggle, but I am getting better!
How about you? Have you and your significant other ever argued over levels of home health or personal hygiene? Do you want to discuss it, but you fear hurting feelings? Though a potentially awkward conversation, it is necessary to have. If you do not talk about it now, your future spouse might be caught off guard when you finally do respond in anger towards his or her cleaning/grooming methods (or, lack thereof).
What Say You? It Is Time to Pull Out Your Creed Notebooks
- Which rooms in my house do I “need” to be clean at all times and why?
- Which rooms can stay a little messy?
- Which rooms can stay completely disheveled?
- How closely do I associate my cleanliness (personal and home) with my walk with God?
- Do I believe God is concerned with the state of my home or my personal hygiene? Why or why not?
- Do I believe my level of cleanliness affects my Christian witness either positively or negatively? Why or why not?
- How often do I shower/shave?
- Am I comfortable with this frequency?
- Is my significant other comfortable with this frequency?
- Do I need to consider showering more often?
- Do I shower obsessively? Should I decrease how often I bathe?
- How often do I desire my future spouse to shower/shave?
- What are my reasons for this expectation?
- Under what circumstances might I rethink this expectation?
- If I had three wishes, what would I wish for my home? (e.g., self-cleaning, never needing paint, meals magically appearing, lawn mowing/landscaping done on its own, having perfect furniture perfectly arranged without shopping, etc.)
- What lessons about cleanliness and hygiene am I determined to pass on to my future children?
- How similarly aligned am I to my significant other’s beliefs about cleanliness and hygiene?
- What have I observed about his/her home?
- Am I honestly comfortable with how he or she naturally lives?
- If given the opportunity, what would I change?
- What have I observed about his/her personal hygiene and appearance?
- Do I often face uncomfortable situations where I question if I should mention his/her body odor?
- Am I comfortable with the care he/she takes with his/her appearance (e.g., fixed hair, ironed clothes, etc.)?
- Do I foresee conflicts arising in the future based on our differences in this area?
- Am I willing to live with our differences? Why or why not?
- What have I observed about his/her home?
- Am I comfortable with this frequency?
What Does the Bible Say?
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. (John 7:24, ESV)
This is in the context of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. It is still a good reminder to look past outward appearance and see what is important. We should always take our initial judgements to God in prayer and to Scripture to see if we are looking into situations with the right attitude.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7, ESV)
The Lord did not pick the largest and strongest of Jesse’s sons to be king. He picked David, the most unlikely son of all. This verse is another reminder that God does not see as we see. We should always take our judgements or concerns about others to Him. We only have limited information.
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order. (I Corinthians 14:39-40, ESV)
This passage is in context of a church service; however, we can see examples of God being a God of order throughout Scripture. From creation (Genesis 1 and 2), to His measurements for the ark (Genesis 6), to his specific instructions for building the Tabernacle (Exodus 26) and carrying the Ark of the Covenant (I Chronicles 15:14-15), to how to conduct a church service (I Corinthians 14:26-40), God does care about order. How does knowing this affect our personal lives?
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9, ESV)
When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:15-17, ESV)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10, ESV)
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1, ESV)
When we study Scripture, we see that God speaks repeatedly about our inner cleanliness – a cleansing of the heart. And, though we all have differing beliefs about cleanliness and hygiene, hopefully we can all agree that the condition of our heart is far more important to God than the condition of our home. We should not ignore keeping our homes, yet we should always endeavor to prioritize the cleansing of our hearts to the cleansing of our homes and bodies.
According to Scripture, a malodorous person will enter Heaven if he or she has a clean, regenerate heart. However, a pristinely dressed, pleasant-smelling individual with an unclean heart will not.
If you want to jot down your beliefs about showers, clean carpets, and sanitized bathtubs, go right ahead and do it! Your creed is your creed and it should be unique to you! However, if you do not share a staunch belief in keeping all things clean, consider talking about the cleanliness of your heart in your creed. As believers, you and your future spouse can agree on the importance of living a pure life surrendered to Christ. Just something to think about while you sip some coffee or enjoy some Fall weather on the front porch. ~smile~
What is date night this week? A movie? Dinner? A hike? Maybe a last-minute beach trip? Volunteer work? If you have not had a quality date in a while, try to carve out some time this week to reconnect with the one you love.
Be strong in body, clean in mind, lofty in ideals. – James Naismith
Be careless in your dress if you will but keep a tidy soul. – Mark Twain
Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world. – George Bernard Shaw
If each person would sweep before his own house, the city would soon be clean. – Polish Proverbs
The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment. – Marie Kondo
Are you in agreement about what you consider clean, the value of cleanliness, and how to achieve it?