“Cleanliness“, says the old proverb, “is next to godliness“. This saying simply emphasizes the great importance of cleanliness. But in practice, it has sometimes been interpreted in a different way and made to mean that godliness can dispense with cleanliness.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, and in some places. In India, godliness was associated with dirt. The old ascetic monk, and the Indian Yogi, were considered to be all the more holy for being filthy. But true godliness surely means cleanliness of soul and body; and the old proverb should read, “Cleanliness is a part of godliness“.
Cleanliness of body is necessary for physical health. Dirt and disease go together. Disease-germs breed and thrive and multiply in dirt; and the epidemic diseases which sweep over a country and carry off thousands, are the results of the dirty habits and surroundings of the people.
No one can keep healthy who does not keep clean. Not only the regular washing of hands and face, but the frequent and thorough bathing of the whole body, and the wearing of clean clothes, are conditions of good health.
Cleanliness of body is also necessary for self-respect. No one can expect to mix with decent society if he is not clean and neat, it is an insult to respectable people to meet them with dirty face and hands, and soiled and stinking clothes. A gentleman would feel ashamed if he could not keep himself scrupulously clean.
But even more important than the cleanliness of body is the `cleanliness of mind. To call a mind “clean“, or “dirty“, is to use metaphorical language. lust as light is the symbol of truth and goodness, and darkness of ignorance and evil, so dirt is the symbol of moral evil and cleanliness of moral purity.
Sin is dirt, and in all religions, the sinner prays to God for cleansing.
“Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow“, cries the Palmist; and “Cleanse thou me from secret faults“.
A man may be clean in body, but if his mind is full of impure desires, dirty thoughts, and unclean imaginings, he is a dirty man, however much he may wash his skin. True cleanliness, then, is not only next to but a part of, true godliness.
- Cleanliness is a part of godliness.
- Cleanliness of Body – (a) is necessary for health, (b) and for self-respect
- Cleanliness of Mind