Day 6 of Lent

That is not in the Bible.  Yeah, you heard me right.  That phrase you just attributed to the lips of Jesus - it isn't in there.  No where.  I'm still close enough to Ash Wednesday to know that one particular "Christian" saying needs to be quashed:

"Cleanliness is next to godliness"

Last Wednesday we put ashen crosses on our heads to remind us just how unclean we are (by making ourselves more unclean - yay!)  Saying that "cleanliness is next to godliness" is aaaalll about being... well... cleaner.

Sure.  You can find Scripture that deals with the Israelites being Holy/clean (Leviticus, mostly) or Christ-followers being of clean and pure hearts (John, Corinthians, James).  In fact I really love the idea of being more like Christ, but this is precisely the reason I have to bemoan this saying.

Because when people say "You should be clean because God is clean" you are in fact implying that dirty people are... well... not just dirty, but not valued by God.

Perhaps I'm going overboard.  It's just a harmless saying, right?  Maybe.  But I've only heard this statement in two contexts: 1.) Mothers trying to convince their children they should be clean.  2.) Belittling the homeless / Applauding the wealthy.  I don't think I've ever heard anyone say it in a positive context like, "Hey, Jesus washes away your sins!  Cleanliness is next to godliness!"

Cliche sayings like this thrive on a deep underlying desire to speak to us.  They work because they are catchy, rhythmic, and often leave you wanting to slowly nod at such succinct wisdom.  They applaud who you desire to be and condemn those not like you.  But that doesn't mean they are correct OR Biblical in how they are perceived.

Jesus had a thing or two to say about cleanliness, didn't he?  To those who thought they were clean: Jesus said they had missed the point.  The Pharisees had cleaned the outside of the bowl but left the inside dirty.  In his most scathing language, Jesus told them they were white-washed tombs: beautiful on the outside but death and decay inside.

How's that for clean?

To those who were unclean (by society's standards) Jesus didn't just say, "hey guys, go get clean!" but he ate with them, partied with them, lived with them, touched them, dwelt among them.  All while they were dirty filthy sinners.  He told the unclean that while no one else might care about them, he came for them.  He didn't care if they were dirty.  He didn't care if they were next to godliness at all, actually.

And yes, I think Jesus wants to make them clean, but that wasn't a pre-requisite to loving them.  When no one else loves you but Jesus, it's hard to not appreciate his sacrifices for you.

Doesn't quite roll off the tongue, but...

Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but Jesus is next to dirty.*




*Also, not literally in the Bible like "Cleanliness is next to godliness" but there is Biblical precedent for it.  Not that he is dirty, but he associates with the dirty :)  Thank God.