As you might expect, I’ve been thinking a lot about religion and what it means in an everyday life. When you’re dedicated to a religion you have to make all kinds of daily concessions – tithing, prayer, all that stuff you need to remember to do.
In that line I’ve been thinking about a certain phrase you’ve probably heard of…
I wanted to know who first said this, and what I can do in my life to be closer to “Godliness”.
Throughout Jewish history, this was given to be a truth, and the difference between clean and unclean things was very important – although it seems to be more symbolic and often refers to food. One of the earlier distinct between clean and unclean was referring to the animals which were taken onto the ark by Noah, and then later to which animals can be eaten:
“You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean” – Leviticus 20:22-26
At other points in the Old Testament, God talks about cleanliness in a much less literal, more moral sense. In the New Testament Jesus declares all foods to be clean, and that cleanliness was a matter of the soul, not of ritual.
“You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” – Luke 11:39
Of course Jesus famously washed the feet of his disciples – but only their feet, for the rest of them were already “clean” – or holy.
As a term, it was first used in Babylonian and Hebrew religious texts, but it was first written in English in the Advancement of Learning (1605) by Sir Francis Bacon, who said “Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God”. In 1791, John Wesley wrote “Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness”.
So it looks as though I shouldn’t worry too much about physical cleanliness, but as it’s hard to know when you’re morally “clean” I’m going to stick with it anyway. So, my mission for the next week:
- Eat kosher food. That means it has to be killed in a certain way, I generally can’t eat gelatine, I shouldn’t have blood or sciatic nerves from an animal (probably not going to be a problem). I will avoid eating camel, hare, pigs and snails. Goodbye bacon.
- Keep my home clean. I’m not usually that untidy, but there are a few parts of my house that could be a little more godly, shall we say. First step is to hire an oven cleaning expert; then do a good clear-out of my wardrobes and games.
- Ask guests to take their shoes off when they come into the house – this is slightly stolen from the Asian custom, where it’s also to do with cleanliness, specifically germs.
- Try to do one good act every day to clean my soul.
Let’s see how I get on with this. Considering that I’d usually rather nap than clean, I might be godly yet tired by the end of the week.