Monday, January 9, 2012

If Cleanliness is Next to Godliness, Then Why Did God Create So Much Dirt

Today is National Clean Off Your Desk Day.  In honor of this silly day, I thought I would do a post regarding cleanliness.  It has been said that cleanliness is next to godliness, but I do not think we find that in the Bible.  What does interest me is how we choose to clean up our appearances rather than our hearts and only find success in making us fake in the process.
And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw [it], he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?" Luke 11:37-40 NKJV
What Jesus did was more than simply eat from a dirty dish or fail to wash his hands before eating.  What Jesus did was refuse to go through the ridiculous ceremonial cleaning method the Pharisees invented in order to be clean enough to eat.  The Pharisees were not happy and grumbled that Jesus did not properly clean Himself.  Jesus, once again, uses their self righteousness as a point against them in revealing to them that they are more concerned with outer appearance than they were with true inner cleanliness. Sadly, we are much the same.

You may disagree, but I ask you this: Are you more concerned with making your house look spotless clean as to not be embarrassed when company comes over or are your more concerned with God seeing every last bit of sin in your life?  Do you put as much effort in cleaning your lives before God as you do in cleaning your house before men?  Is appearance more important than truth?  These are important questions we have to ask ourselves.  I am not saying a clean house is a bad thing, but we have to consider whether a clean house is more important than a clean heart.  We have to consider if making ourselves appear righteous is more important than actually learning to live righteously.

At one time in my life I was a pizza delivery person in an area that was all about appearance.  Many overweight women were out eating salads because they were all wanting to show how healthy they were eating (though they never looked any healthier).  There were large beautiful houses, more than families could afford, with sparse furniture inside and lackluster landscaping outside.  Most of these families also had nice cars.  It was all about appearing rich when they were just spoiled wives and overworked husbands.  One thing about these families is that they never cleaned things up for the pizza guy and so I was able to see many of these families as they were.  I was witness to their "perfect angel" children doing all sorts of troubling things in the summer when they were home alone.  I was witness to men and women who were in illicit affairs or who were doing illegal drugs behind closed doors.  I saw all the things that were hidden from others in order to keep up their appearance.  The image they wanted was the successful close-knit family with powerful husbands, spoiled wives, and perfect children.  Many believed the image, but that is all it was. 

Such is the same with many of our lives.  How many of us have a secret sin that we do not let others see.  How many others simply change their theology to make the sins of themselves or their families look more palatable to others.  How many of us clean up our lives on the outside hiding the filth we cling to on the inside?  We want to project the image of the righteous redeemed man, beating back the sin in our lives on all fronts, never confessing our secret struggles to others for fear of what they will think.  I am not less guilty of this than anyone else, but what we hold back in pride we allow to kill us from the inside.  The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another and this is to hold us accountable to one another.  If you secret sin is out in the open, it can be dealt with.  If your secret sin stays hidden, it will eat away at you each time it overtakes you. 

And so we really need to examine ourselves to see if we are more concerned with appearance or making real changes in our lives.  Are we more interested in other people seeing us as spiritual or in actually being spiritual?  Are we more interesting in people believing we are growing in righteousness or actually learning to live righteously in the power of Jesus Christ?  These are very important questions.  Of course, we should be concerned about our witness, but our witness should be the result of true growth in Jesus Christ and not just pretending.  Sometimes we will have to swallow our pride and confess our hidden sins to others.  This is never easy as it is a truly humbling thing to do.  That secret baggage you carry, though, is only holding you back from following Jesus.  I urge you all, do not just clean up your house for the sake of others and how they see you, but learn to live clean lives.  One way is a life of stress, always cleaning up your act to hide your actions from others.  The other way, that is not even a concern. 
Confess [your] trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  James 5:16 NKJV

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