At the end of the creation week, “God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). He had caused dry land to appear, the seas and oceans to form, created flora and fauna, birds of the air, insects and creeping things, sea and ocean life, and Adam and Eve. He had also planted a garden eastward in Eden, and commanded Adam “to dress it and to keep it” (2:15).
This very first recorded instruction from God to man reveals God’s expectations of how man is to care for things entrusted to him. Adam was expected to maintain, keep clean and tidy, a garden paradise—their home, the habitation (Isa. 45:18)—into which he and his wife were placed. Together, they were to care for what their Creator had made “very good,” and follow a clear pattern already established by God.
What about you? Do you follow this pattern with the possessions God has given you? Do you keep clean, maintain and preserve your possessions and living environment? Does your action in this area reflect the God of Creation, who does everything “decently and in order” (I Cor. 14:40)—or the god of this world, a destroyer, the author of chaos and confusion?
As members of God’s Church, we automatically stand out from the world. Our neighbors, co-workers or family members outside the Church often notice that we observe the Sabbath and Holy Days, disappear for eight-plus days every fall, and do not celebrate man’s holidays. The religion we practice is different from the vast majority of supposed Christendom. People notice.
II Corinthians 5:20 plainly states that we are ambassadors for Christ. An ambassador is an official representative of a government. For us this means we represent the living Jesus Christ and God’s way of life. We reflect either positively or negatively in all that we say and do.
How we look, speak, act, dress and maintain our possessions sends a powerful message to others. They will form opinions about the Church and you as a Christian, not just based on our doctrines, but on all that they see, hear and witness.
How well (or poorly) are you doing, in all areas of life, in properly representing your Elder Brother?
Israel Was Taught Cleanliness
God’s Word has much to say about cleanliness. Sprinkled throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are various instructions concerning the washing of pots and utensils (Lev. 11:32-35), clothes and bedding (Lev. 14:8), and a person’s body (15:2-7; 22:5-6). There were laws regulating sanitation (Deut. 23:12-14).
God gave instructions regarding which animals, fish and fowl were clean to eat (Lev. 11:1-23; Deut. 14:3-20).
When Israel was to appear before God at Mount Sinai, He told Moses “Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes…And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes” (Ex. 19:10, 14).
The priesthood also was to make a distinction between the clean and unclean (Lev. 10:10). Notice the instructions for Aaron and his sons: “And Aaron and his sons you shall bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall wash them with water” (Ex. 29:4).
Many of the physical regulations given to Israel were to teach spiritual principles to a physically minded people; nevertheless, these laws reveal God’s mind on the matter of cleanliness.
Israel was to “be a peculiar treasure…above all people…unto [God] a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6). They were to set the standard—to be a model nation to surrounding peoples, a proper example reflecting the God they served (Deut. 4:5-8).
Consider righteous King Hezekiah’s example of having the Temple cleansed of trash and debris after it had fallen into a state of disrepair during the reign of Ahaz (II Chron. 29:1-19).
And Jesus’ zealousness in removing people, items and animals that defiled the Temple (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-17). Clearly, the state of God’s house matters to Him!
Galatians 5:19-23 lists the works of the flesh. Among human actions such as adultery, fornication, lasciviousness, idolatry, hatred, wrath, strife, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and heresies is uncleanness. The Greek word translated “uncleanness” is akatharsia, which means uncleanness in a physical or moral sense.
The Pharisees of Christ’s time were concerned with physical cleanliness—the washing of hands, cups, pots, brazen vessels and couches (Mark 7:3-4). In their minds, this equated to righteousness. They took exception to what they perceived was the disciples’ (and by implication Christ’s) laxity in this area (Mark 7:2). As was Jesus’ custom, He used this as an opportunity to teach.
“And when He had called all the people unto Him, He said unto them, Hearken unto Me every one of you, and understand. There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
“And when He was entered into the house from the people, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. And He said unto them, Are you so without understanding also? Do you not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entering into the man, it cannot defile him; because it enters not into his heart, but into the belly, and goes out into the draught, purging all meats?
“And He said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:14-23).
But does this mean we are to be concerned only with cleaning what is on the inside? Is there no application for cleanliness beyond this point? Did not He who made the outside make the inside also (Luke 11:40)?
Allow Christ to answer: “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter [the person ridding himself of that which defiles], that the outside [those things that are connected to the person] of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:26).
If a person is spiritually clean it should flow well beyond the inner man into all other areas of his life. After all, others will form opinions about you as a Christian, and God’s Church, based on what they see on the outside. What they see should go beyond righteous conduct and obedience to God’s doctrines. Our dress, homes, yards, cars and personal appearance should also reflect lives that are physically clean. We should reflect neatness, tidiness, order and structure. God’s standards must permeate all areas of one’s life.
Shining Light or Glaring Eyesore?
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:13-16).
Are you, including your property and possessions, seasoning your neighborhood and workplace—or are you bitter herbs?
Does your presence provide a soft light easy on the eyes—or is it a glaring eyesore from which your neighbors and workmates need to turn away? What about non-member spouses or family? And what about your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you salt and light to them?
As a representative of Christ, ask yourself the following:
- Is your home kept clean, neat and tidy, generally presentable? Or is it often a disorganized mess? Floors not swept, dishes not done, but piled up from days before?
- Do you keep your property trimmed and clean? Or is it overgrown, having an unkempt, uncared for appearance?
- What of your automobile? It may not be the newest, but do you endeavor to keep it clean inside and out? If not, is it reasonable to expect God to bless you with something better?
- If you have pets, indoors or outside, is it a reasonable number? Are you balanced in this area? Does your house or apartment have a pleasant aroma or the smell of something else? Do your pets cause problems with neighbors?
- Would you feel comfortable having God walk through your home and yard or sit in your car?
- Is your work area a reflection of decency and order?
- Do you strive to dress for the occasion, yet always presenting a clean, neat appearance?
- At the Feast of Tabernacles, is your hotel room tidy? Or does it look like a disaster area, thereby leaving a negative impression on hotel staff? Many have left a stain on the reputation of God’s Church in this regard.
- Are you teaching your children cleanliness, neatness, tidiness?
- Your body is a spiritual temple—do you keep it clean? Is it tidy and well kept? Are you practicing proper personal hygiene? Are you possibly causing an offense due to a lack of personal cleanliness?
- Do you reflect the God of quality in all your possessions and your appearance?
Think! If you are lacking in these areas, if you do not care for your possessions now, will God entrust you with cities in His kingdom? He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. He who is not faithful in little will not be entrusted with anything (Matt. 25:21; Luke 16:10)!
“Be you clean”
The God who created, ordered and established the universe and all that is in it is a God of quality. He has standards. There is no uncleanness with Him at all. Consider the description of New Jerusalem: “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal” (Rev. 21:10-11).
Could you comprehend God’s dwelling place in the Third Heaven being messy? Could there be dust bunnies under God’s Throne? No! This would not reflect His nature (Rev. 4:1-6). He is a God of decency and order, not uncleanliness!
The Church is pictured as “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white” (Rev. 19:8). Christ’s body was wrapped in a clean linen cloth (Matt. 27:59). The armies following Christ from Heaven at His Return are “clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Rev. 19:14).
God commands, “Wash you, make you clean” (Isa. 1:16). “For I [have taken] you from among the heathen, and gather[ed] you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land [the kingdom of God]. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness…will I cleanse you” (Ezek. 36:24-25).
“[We] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that [we] should show forth the praises of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9).
As such, we are to set the proper standard. We are to be a model, an example of God’s way of life to those around us—ever reflecting the God of quality.
We have this admonition: “touch no unclean thing…be you clean [both spiritually and physically], that bear the vessels [the Holy Spirit] of the Lord” (Isa. 52:11).