Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
–Psalm 51:10 (ESV)
“Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes, or habitation.”
If you remember your middle school English classes, you may recall the difference between literal and figurative language. For Benjamin Franklin, even at the young age of 20, he listed “cleanliness” among his 13 virtues, and he meant that literally. In contrast to today’s culture, where many celebrate “tolerance” almost to the level of a “religious cult,” Franklin called for some intolerance. Specifically, he claimed: “tolerate no uncleanness.”
Taken literally, that can include:
- Be clean in body. Practice healthful, consistent hygiene.
- Be clean in clothes. Wear fresh, laundered clothes and show healthy self-respect in your appearance when you go out.
- Be clean in your room or home. Be tidy and hygienic. In an ancient warning from Bible days, Leviticus 14:35 (NIV) tells any homeowner who thinks he had mold or mildew in his dwelling to seek immediate help. “The owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like a defiling mold in my house.’”
As GotQuestions.org explains, “We know today that the presence of mold or mildew in a house contributes to allergies, asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing difficulties. The Mosaic Law commanded the Israelites to remove mildew from their houses and gave step-by-step instructions on how to do it. The Lord had them take preventative measures to protect their health. Then as now, getting rid of mold was important.” And as this column explains, mold in a home has even been linked to causing Alzheimer’s!
This is another example of modern science proving true what the Bible has claimed for thousands of years!
On a literal level, keeping clean is for our own good.
On a figurative level, we should be clean too. Psalm 51 is a prayer asking God to “create in me a clean heart.” And that “heart” is probably not referring to your blood-pumping organ, but rather the volitional center of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) tells us “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Luke 6:45 (NIV) reads: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
So, the spiritual condition of our heart determines not only our speech but our attitudes, actions, and entire course of life.
Note that the Bible doesn’t say “Clean yourself up so you can be good enough to approach God.” That’s impossible, and that’s called “self-righteousness,” and the Bible calls that a sin. We are to humbly ask God to give us a clean heart and right spirit (good attitude). That comes from confession. Confessing our sins is just admitting to God what He knows about us already.
Also, the Bible tells us genuine cleanness is an “inside job.” Focusing on presenting a righteous façade in public while willfully holding onto evil in our hearts is the sin of hypocrisy. Rebuking the religious and political leaders of His day, Jesus flared: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26 NIV)
Get the heart clean first, and the rest will follow in time.
Have you humbly asked God to forgive you of your sins, cleanse your heart and mind, and make you a new creation in Christ?
This is Part 10 of a 13-Part series, based on 13 virtues that Benjamin Franklin sought to incorporate into his daily life, each of which has a scriptural basis. Franklin began this system in 1726, when he was incredibly only 20 years old. He realized that, since each year has 52 weeks, one can repeat this series four times annually. A chart like the one Franklin designed to help one mark one’s progress can be found here.