Silly, silly me.
I braced myself for culture shock when we moved abroad, but I wasn’t expecting the most shock to come to my faith. I didn’t realize God was moving be abroad to change me instead of me being the one to change others.
Cleanliness is NOT synonymous with godliness
One of the first lessons he taught me was that godliness in a woman is not measured by the cleanliness of her home. But oh, did I struggle with this. Part of that struggle relates to how I wrongly was taught and interpreted Proverbs 31.
You can read more about the epiphany on Proverbs 31 I had while overseas, but this is essentially the gist from an article I wrote for TheCourage:
Fast-forward a few years and again in my kitchen as I cooked, I began to listen to a sermon by David Platt on the Cross and Biblical Womanhood. He too was preaching on Proverbs 31, for Mother’s Day of all days.
He laughed at the irony because through his exegesis of the text, he discovered that Proverbs 31’s main audience is not actually married women.
It’s single men.
Yup. You read that right. I cringe a bit every time I now hear a teaching on Proverbs 31 that doesn’t start at verse 1, “The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him.”
So with this frame of mind in misreading Proverbs 31, imagine how judgmental my heart was of a pastor’s wife when I walked into their small, disheveled, and dirty apartment. Yet, this woman was known for prayer vigils late into the night, waking up in the early hours to serve others, avoiding authorities who wanted to force her to have an abortion, and saying, “I’m not worthy of persecution.”
She wasn’t an anomaly among Christian women in other cultures. I visited a stay at home mom who was known to serve other moms through free childcare. She has a messy home even when children aren’t there.
I visited a woman who became a believer because of the desperation she experienced when she gave birth to her Autistic son. She gave up her profession to care for her son full time. She loves on women in her community who also have special needs children. She started a kindergarten for them. She led her sister and her parents to Christ before her father died of cancer.
She was the light of Jesus they needed. She’s giving her home to her sister’s family when she moves abroad, though right now her sister’s family lives with her. This is a really expensive home that she could make thousands of dollars in rent just because of its location, but it’s not as important to her as caring for her sister’s family. She also continues to live out honor and submission before her husband, who is not a Christian, so that she might win him with her life.
Her house is just as messy and dirty as the pastor’s wife I mentioned earlier, despite incomes that are vastly different. Though the pastor’s wife doesn’t have the means to have house help, the rich woman I’ve mentioned does, yet she doesn’t see a biblical requirement to have a clean home.
It’s not poor doctrine or lack of discipleship with any of these women. The rich woman is a reformed Baptist and hosts regular, intense Bible studies. The pastor’s wife has translated English sermons with robust theological perspectives. If you’ve never translated something, translators really learn a topic when because of processing in two languages.
God was showing me that his people are concerned with people, not maintaining stuff. God was showing me that these women had much more spiritual fruit than I did, even with my clean home that really only served to make me feel legalistically righteous.
I believe a clean and orderly home is clearly a cultural and generational requirement or idol at worst and at best simply meant as a blessing for others. But I’m concerned for the women who feel yoked by this and who believe their godliness is tied with cleanliness.
It’s just not true.
When we look at the people of God wandering in the desert, the Tabernacle, though orderly with clear instructions of build, would have been one of the most non-clean looking places among the people. Ceremonially-clean, of course, but it wouldn’t have been squeaky clean to American standards.
First of all, the Tabernacle was erected in a desert. That means dry, dusty land acting as a floor for the court and meeting tent. Secondly, the priests’ clothes, the tent, and the utensils were sprinkled everywhere and eventually had dried blood all over it (Exodus 29:15-16, 21, Hebrews 9:18-22), and these sacrifices were offered regularly. I can only imagine the odor of that tent, not to mention the odor from the actual people of God who were sweating sans deodorant in the desert on the Sinai Peninsula.
Lastly this was a place for animal sacrifices and this is a faith that uses oil as anointing. Have you ever seen an animal sacrifice? I have seen a festival where blood ran through the streets. It was gross. Absolutely gross. Have you ever had oil poured all over your head like King David? It’s not going to wash out for a few days, just to warn you.
This leaves me to suggest an oderly home has less to do with how the house looks and a lot more to do with the discipleship and spiritual state of the people living in that home.
This faith is messy.
It doesn’t put on fronts, though it does seek to bless others. When I want a clean home rather than to talk with my kids about Jesus or I don’t want people to come over because my home is messy, I need to consider if the clean house is serving God or myself. Because God wants me to love him and other people because of my love for him, not stuff. A refuge need not be squeaky clean.
And what I conclude when I ponder the reasons for my clean house makes a big difference. God has not laid upon me any salvation requirement that my home is clean, and no human has the right to lay this extra-biblical requirement on women.
I hope this helps you break free of any spiritual yoke weighing you down. Your worth is not in your house. If you wonder if a clean home is what God has specifically called for you in your own season of life, ponder:
- To keep a clean home do I need to sacrifice time in the word to maintain it?
- To keep a clean home do I need to sacrifice time with my husband or children to maintain it?
- To keep a clean home do I need to sacrifice my physical health to maintain it?
- To keep a clean home do I need to sacrifice time serving my neighbors or my church to maintain it?
If you answer yes to any of the above, it is more than likely not something God is leading you to do at this moment in your life. You can talk this over more with those in your life who know you better than me, like your husband, accountability partners, mentors, and pastor.
Lastly if this is something that’s very important to your family, consider if you can financially afford house help. Having homes cleaned professionally can save women a ton of time to instead focus on people.
Cleanliness that is Godly
But there is a type of cleanliness that is godly, and that’s the righteousness you receive when you put your faith in Jesus. It has nothing to do with your physical appearance or the trash status of you home, and everything to do with the inner room of your heart (Mark 7:1-13). Pharisees were concerned with appearances and rules, yet Jesus called them white-washed tombstones. If you have a heart for Jesus you will be passionate for his word, this faith, his people, and the broken.
You can read more about the hope I have in Christ here.
That passion should naturally lead you through sanctification, which is a fierce hate of sin and an ongoing process to see you made more and more into the image of Christ. This cleaning out of your heart should never be sacrificed at the alter of a clean home. A clean home is a cheap replacement in view of the treasures we experience in sanctification.
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Photo of Sinai Peninsula Desert via Wikimedia Commons