Certain statements within the Christian community are treated with almost the same respect as biblical truths. Although these statements are not quoted directly in the Bible, people reference them and use them for instruction and guidance. An example of this phrase is ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’
The statement’ cleanliness is next to godliness’ emphasizes the need for Christians to prioritize personal hygiene and spiritual purity to live a healthy and holy life.
The Methodist Church’s founder, John Wesley, is credited with saying this in one of his sermons. The full quote, according to John Wesley, reads, “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.”
Since John Wesley’s expression summarizes the need to stay away from filth and corruption and the value of maintaining cleanliness as it determines one’s proximity to God.
However, the concept of cleanliness is not alien to God’s people. The children of Israel religiously practiced several cleansing and washing rituals according to the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament.
There was a clear line between what was ‘clean’ and ‘unclean.’ Among things that can make people unclean include touching dead bodies and animals, women undergoing their menstrual cycles, the leprous, etc. However, whoever was declared unclean could go through a purification process using water and become accepted into the midst of the people (Numbers 19).
We also see cleanliness is next to godliness in the Bible when God instructed Moses in Exodus 30:17–21 to build a Bronze Laver and place it between the tabernacle and the altar and fill it with water. The priests were to wash their hands and feet so they would be pure before entering the tabernacle and ministering at the altar.
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ washed the feet of His disciples to demonstrate humility and the concept of servant leadership (John 13:1-20). However, beyond the significant lessons, Jesus was trying to put across to His disciples, the act of foot washing had been an old tradition.
In ancient times, the Israelites wore sandals and had unpaved roads, so their legs were usually dusty after a journey. Therefore, hosts offer guests water to wash their feet as a sign of friendliness and hospitality. Abraham offered his heavenly guests water to wash their feet in Genesis 18:4. Therefore, cleanliness holds cultural and spiritual significance to God’s people.
It means God is interested both in our outward and inward appearances. We cannot separate physical neatness from the purity of the heart.
God is holy and pure. He dwells in holiness and hates iniquity. What this means is that He inhabits people and places that are holy. In the Old Testament, the presence of God comes down into the tabernacle (a place), so He can dwell among His people (Exodus 25:8–9). While in this present time, God dwells in our hearts (people) (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Therefore, we must keep our hearts, homes, offices, and neighborhoods clean if we need God’s presence to dwell with us.
Cleanliness is godliness. Maintaining cleanliness shows that we revere God. It also proves that we are willing to have Him in our lives, where He longs to be.
We must forsake sin to keep our hearts holy and clean. We must repent of all our sins by confessing them and accepting Jesus in our lives and loved as Savior (1 John 1:9, Romans 10:10). After doing this, He will cleanse us with His blood, and then we will become holy and worthy to stand before God (Colossians 1:20, Acts 3:19, Ephesians 1:7).
God’s Word cleanses. We must allow the Word of God to work in our lives, transforming us inside out, renewing our minds, and changing our mindsets (Romans 12:2).
Physical Dirtiness is injurious to our health. Therefore, deliberate actions to maintain a clean heart and surroundings mean we intentionally treat the bodies God has given us with care and love.
The core message of the Christian faith is holiness, which in other words, means a clean heart or a heart free of sin. Spiritually, sin is a stain that corrupts and soils man’s heart, making it dirty and unfit for God to dwell in it. The Bible reveals in Habakkuk 1:13 that God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil. So, if we do not practice cleanliness, we automatically chase God out of our lives.
Not having God in our lives opens us up to dangers. First, we become prone to the enemy’s attack. John 10:10 says the enemy’s mission is to steal, kill, and destroy. He easily carries out this evil if he meets us without God’s presence.
The concluding part of John 10:10 says that God gives us life more abundantly. The source of every Christian’s life is God. Connecting to Him makes us flourish spiritually, physically, and in every other area of our lives. However, when we are disconnected from Him because of the lack of cleanliness of the heart, we will begin to experience a gradual deterioration in every area of our lives, like in the case of King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14-23).
Therefore, every Christian must understand and uphold the truth behind the statement, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness,’ to enjoy the immense benefits that come with having God dwelling with us physically and spiritually.
This psalm greatly prepares the 21st century on the action to take when they feel hurt or battled against. It says the Lord God Almighty will fight for His own.
You don’t need to take an action that is violent or worse, reciprocate what was done. But rather, just as David did in scripture, you turn to your Maker to take up His place and shield you against the enemy.
Even when the Holy Spirit nudges the believer not to retaliate in the flesh but to pour out their hearts before God, it’s not unnatural to still nurse that urge to hurt your enemy just like they’ve done to you.
Whenever you feel that way, you can say this short simple prayer for anger and rest your heart in peace;
Heavenly Father, thank you for the light you always bring through your word. Thank you for teaching us well as usual. I exalt you for who you are.
I understand that revenge should not be in my hands but in yours. Please avenge my pain and expose the plans of the wicked ones. Abort their plans and prove me innocent of their accusations. I know and trust that you will intervene God. Thank you for everything. Thank you for working on my behalf. Have your way, Lord. Amen.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil” (Isaiah 1:16)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” (Ezekiel 36:25)
“Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:26)
“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Cleanliness is next to godliness is undoubtedly a reminder to Christians to remember that God is very much interested in the state of our hearts. He wants to draw near to us to commune and build a solid relationship. However, how clean we are will determine whether He will come or stay far away from us.