Does the Bible Say Cleanliness is Next to Godliness?

Does the Bible Say Cleanliness is Next to Godliness? January 15, 2024


Does the Bible say, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness?” Actually, no. That expression is believed to have originated with John Wesley, co-founder of Methodism. Still, several books of the Bible record elaborate steps of ritual purification and cleansing before approaching a holy God, which is probably why a Saturday night bath was the routine when I was growing up.

Child in bathtub
A Saturday night bath was a ritual when I was a child/Image courtesy of Pexels

Somehow, though, I can’t seem to convey this “cleanliness is next to Godliness” message to my sons. Okay, maybe not in the area of personal hygiene, per se, but I believe the Good Lord expected cleanliness to extend beyond one’s body to include one’s living quarters. After all, He gave us our homes, and I believe He expects us to take care of them. But my frustration with my sons goes something like this:

“Please clean up after yourself,” I told Older Son the other day.  Older Son did not have to work that day and had gotten up to cook himself a big breakfast after I had just cleaned up the kitchen.  “The cleaning ladies are coming today.”

Dirty dishes
Would you please clean your dirty dishes?/Image courtesy of Pixabay

“Mom, you do realize how strange that sounds?” Older Son replied. “Clean up after yourself because the cleaning ladies are coming?”

Older Son has this way of twisting everything I say to make me sound illogical. I don’t need his help. I can sound illogical all by myself.

“I don’t pay them to do dishes,” I informed him. “And they can’t clean the kitchen sink if your dirty dishes are in it.” This is no reflection on Older Son’s slovenliness (well, yeah, it really is, and isn’t slovenliness a deadly sin?) but I don’t think he has discovered there is a perfectly functioning dishwasher right next to the sink.  If, by some chance he has noticed, he cannot figure out how to load it with dirty dishes. He still thinks the dishwashing fairy miraculously washes and puts away all the dirty dishes he leaves in the sink—as well as collecting the dirty dishes from the various places in the house where he stashes them when he is finished with them. You don’t want to know where I have found dirty dishes.

But I suppose there is some logic in his thinking that pre-cleaning before the cleaning ladies come to clean the house is . . . well, illogical. I will concede he has a point. In my defense, I don’t actually clean before they come, except on those occasions when I do clean before they come. Sometimes things are just so bad I can’t have the cleaning ladies judging me (or turning me in to the Department of Health). But mostly what I do is more along the lines of removing shoes from the dining room table, wiping up the cat hairballs from the window sill, and decluttering the dresser so the cleaning ladies can find the surface to dust it. Not to mention playing “hunt down the dirty dishes.” And picking up every piece of dirty clothing that has been discarded on every piece of furniture and littering the floors of the bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, hallway, living room, dining room, and every other conceivable space except the extra-large clothes hamper in the laundry room, which is predictably empty.

Scattered toys
I’m still playing with all those toys/Image courtesy of Pexels

When Younger Son was little, I made him pick up his toys once a week so the cleaning ladies could find the floor. (Hah, who am I kidding? I picked up the toys after my nagging fell on deaf ears!) The toys, which were supposed to be in the playroom, never seemed to stay in the playroom. They were always strewn all over the house. Younger Son was always most put out by this weekly ritual, as he was “still playing with each of the nine million toys” littering the floor, and as soon as the cleaning ladies left, he would ask, “Can I make a mess, now?”

Someday, Younger Son will move out, and Older Son will move out and stay moved out, and I can have a neat, clean, clutter-free, organized house. Oh, wait. Hubby still lives here. Never mind.


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