“With the pure you show yourself pure.”—PSALM 18:26.
1-3. (a) Why does a mother make sure that her son is neat and clean? (b) Why does Jehovah want his worshippers to be clean, and what motivates us to want to keep ourselves clean?
A MOTHER prepares her little boy to go out. She makes sure that he is bathed and that his clothes are neat and clean. She knows that good hygiene is crucial to his health. She also recognizes that her son’s appearance reflects on his parents.
2 Jehovah, our heavenly Father, wants his servants to be clean, or pure. His Word says: “With the pure you show yourself pure.”* (Psalm 18:26) Jehovah loves us; he knows that keeping clean is best for us. He also expects us as his Witnesses to reflect favorably on him. Indeed, our clean appearance and fine conduct will bring glory to, not reproach on, Jehovah and his holy name.—Ezekiel 36:22; read 1 Peter 2:12.
3 Knowing that God loves clean people motivates us to keep clean. We want our way of life to bring honor to him because we love him. We also want to remain in his love. Let us, then, examine why we need to keep clean, what being clean involves, and how we can keep ourselves clean. Such an examination can help us to see whether there are areas in which we need to make improvement.
WHY DO WE NEED TO KEEP CLEAN?
4, 5. (a) What is the primary reason why we need to keep clean? (b) How is Jehovah’s cleanness evident in his visible creations?
4 One way Jehovah leads us is by example. His Word thus urges us to “become imitators of God.” (Ephesians 5:1) Here is the primary reason why we need to keep clean: Jehovah, the God we worship, is clean, pure, and holy in every respect.—Read Leviticus 11:44, 45.
5 Jehovah’s cleanness, like so many of his qualities and ways, is evident in his visible creations. (Romans 1:20) The earth was designed to be a clean home for humans. Jehovah has put into place ecological cycles that clean our air and water. Certain microbes act as a kind of sanitation department, transforming waste into harmless products. Scientists have utilized some of these hungry microorganisms to clean up oil spills and other pollution caused by human selfishness and greed. Obviously, cleanliness matters to “the Maker of the earth.” (Jeremiah 10:12) It should also matter to us.
6, 7. How did the Mosaic Law emphasize that cleanness was required of those who worshipped Jehovah?
6 Another reason why we need to keep clean is that Jehovah, our Sovereign Ruler, requires cleanness of his worshippers. Under the Law that Jehovah gave to Israel, cleanness and worship were inseparable. The Law specified that on the Day of Atonement, the high priest had to bathe not once but twice. (Leviticus 16:4, 23, 24) Officiating priests were required to wash their hands and feet before offering sacrifices to Jehovah. (Exodus 30:17-21; 2 Chronicles 4:6) The Law outlined some 70 causes of physical uncleanness and ceremonial defilement. While in an unclean state, an Israelite could not have any part in worship—in certain cases, under penalty of death. (Leviticus 15:31) Anyone refusing to undergo the required purifying procedure, including bathing his body and washing his clothes, was to be “cut off from the congregation.”—Numbers 19:17-20.
7 Although we are not under the Mosaic Law, it gives us insight into God’s thinking on matters. Clearly, the Law emphasized that cleanness was required of those who worshipped God. Jehovah has not changed. (Malachi 3:6) Our worship cannot be acceptable to him unless it is “clean and undefiled.” (James 1:27) We thus need to know what he expects of us in this regard.
WHAT BEING CLEAN IN GOD’S EYES INVOLVES
8. In what respects does Jehovah expect us to keep clean?
8 In the Bible, the idea of being clean means more than just physical cleanness. Being clean in God’s eyes touches all aspects of our lives. Jehovah expects us to keep clean in four basic respects—spiritually, morally, mentally, and physically. Let us consider what each of these involves.
9, 10. What does it mean to keep spiritually clean, and what do true Christians avoid?
9 Spiritual cleanness. Put simply, keeping spiritually clean means not mixing true worship with false. When the Israelites left Babylon to return to Jerusalem, they were to heed this inspired exhortation: “Get out of there, touch nothing unclean! . . . Keep yourselves clean.” (Isaiah 52:11) The Israelites were returning home primarily to restore Jehovah’s worship. That worship had to be clean—not tainted by any of the God-dishonoring teachings, practices, and customs of Babylonish religion.
10 Today, we as true Christians must be careful not to become contaminated by false worship. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:21.) Caution is essential in this regard, for the influence of false religion is pervasive. In many lands, various traditions, activities, and rituals are connected with false religious teachings, such as the notion that something inside us survives death. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10) True Christians avoid customs involving false religious beliefs.* We will not allow pressure from others to cause us to compromise the Bible’s standards of clean worship.—Acts 5:29.
11. What does moral cleanness involve, and why is it vital that we keep clean in this respect?
11 Moral cleanness. To keep morally clean includes avoiding sexual immorality of any kind. (Read Ephesians 5:5.) It is vital that we stay morally clean. As we will see in the next chapter of this book, to remain in God’s love, we must “flee from sexual immorality.” Those who unrepentantly practice sexual immorality “will not inherit God’s Kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, 18) In God’s eyes, such ones are among those who are “disgusting in their filth.” If they fail to keep morally clean, “their portion will be . . . the second death.”—Revelation 21:8.
12, 13. What connection is there between thoughts and actions, and how can we keep mentally clean?
12 Mental cleanness. Thoughts lead to actions. If we allow wrong thoughts to take up residence in our mind and heart, sooner or later we are bound to commit unclean deeds. (Matthew 5:28; 15:18-20) But if we fill our mind with pure, clean thoughts, we can be motivated to maintain conduct that is clean. (Read Philippians 4:8.) How can we keep mentally clean? For one thing, we need to avoid any form of entertainment that could soil our thinking.* In addition, we can fill our mind with clean thoughts by regularly studying God’s Word.—Psalm 19:8, 9.
13 To remain in God’s love, it is essential that we keep ourselves spiritually, morally, and mentally clean. These aspects of cleanness are discussed more fully in other chapters of this publication. Let us here examine the fourth aspect—physical cleanliness.
HOW CAN WE KEEP PHYSICALLY CLEAN?
14. Why is physical cleanliness not just a personal matter?
14 Physical cleanliness involves keeping our body and surroundings clean. Is such cleanliness a personal matter that should be of no concern to anyone else? That could hardly be the case for worshippers of Jehovah. As already noted, our physical cleanliness matters to Jehovah not only because it is best for us but also because we reflect on him. Think about the illustration used at the outset. Seeing a child who is always dirty or unkempt makes you wonder about his parents, does it not? We would not want anything about our appearance or way of life to bring reproach on our heavenly Father or to detract from the message we preach. God’s Word says: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, so that no fault may be found with our ministry; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers.” (2 Corinthians 6:3, 4) How, then, can we keep physically clean?
15, 16. What do good hygienic habits include, and what should be true of our clothing?
15 Our personal hygiene and appearance. Although cultures and living conditions vary from country to country, we can generally find adequate soap and water to bathe regularly and to make sure that we and our children are clean. Good hygienic habits include washing our hands with soap and water before eating or handling food, after using the toilet, and after washing or changing a baby. Washing the hands with soap and water can prevent illness and actually save lives. It can prevent the spread of harmful viruses and bacteria, thus helping people avoid diarrheic diseases. In lands where houses are not commonly connected to a sewage system, wastes can perhaps be disposed of by burying, as was done in ancient Israel.—Deuteronomy 23:12, 13.
16 Our clothing too requires regular washing to be clean and presentable. A Christian’s clothing need not be expensive or the latest fashion, but it should be neat, clean, and modest. (Read 1 Timothy 2:9, 10.) No matter where we are, we want our appearance to “adorn the teaching of our Savior, God.”—Titus 2:10.
17. Why should our home and surroundings be clean and presentable?
17 Our home and surroundings. Our home may not be fancy or luxurious, but it should be as clean and presentable as circumstances permit. Likewise, if we use an automobile for transportation to meetings and in the field ministry, we can do our best to keep it reasonably clean, inside and out. Let us not forget that a clean home and surroundings are a witness in themselves. After all, we teach people that Jehovah is a clean God, that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” and that his Kingdom will soon transform our earthly home into a paradise. (Revelation 11:18; Luke 23:43) Surely we want the appearance of our home and belongings to show others that even now we are developing clean habits that will fit in with the coming new world.
18. How can we show respect for our Kingdom Hall?
18 Our place of worship. Our love for Jehovah moves us to show respect for our Kingdom Hall, a center of true worship in the area. When new ones come to the hall, we want them to have a favorable impression of our meeting place. Regular cleaning and maintenance are needed in order to ensure that the hall remains appealing and attractive. We show respect for our Kingdom Hall by doing what we can to keep it in good condition. It is a privilege to volunteer our time to assist in cleaning as well as “to mend and repair” our place of worship. (2 Chronicles 34:10) The same principles apply when we meet at an Assembly Hall or another facility for assemblies or conventions.
CLEANSING OURSELVES OF DEFILING HABITS AND PRACTICES
19. To keep ourselves physically clean, what do we need to avoid, and how does the Bible help us in this regard?
19 To keep ourselves physically clean, we need to avoid defiling habits and practices, such as smoking, abusing alcohol, and the nonmedical use of addictive or mind-altering substances. The Bible does not specifically name all the unclean and disgusting habits and practices that are prevalent today, but it does contain principles that enable us to perceive how Jehovah must feel about such things. Because we know Jehovah’s view of matters, our love for him moves us to take the course that brings his approval. Let us consider five Scriptural principles.
20, 21. Jehovah wants us to be free of what type of practices, and what powerful reason do we have to comply?
20 “Since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) Jehovah wants us to be free of practices that pollute our fleshly body and damage our spirit, or dominant mental attitude. We must therefore avoid addictive behaviors that are known to be harmful to physical and mental health.
21 The Bible gives a powerful reason for us to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement.” Notice that 2 Corinthians 7:1 begins by saying: “Since we have these promises.” What promises? As mentioned in the preceding verses, Jehovah promises: “I will take you in. And I will become a father to you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18) Just imagine: Jehovah promises to put you under his protective care and to love you as a father does a son or a daughter. But Jehovah will fulfill these promises only if you avoid defilements of “flesh and spirit.” How foolish it would be, then, to allow any disgusting habit or practice to rob you of such a precious and close relationship with Jehovah!
22-25. What Scriptural principles can help us to avoid unclean habits and practices?
22 “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Jesus singled out this commandment as the greatest of all. (Matthew 22:38) Jehovah deserves such love from us. To love him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, we must avoid practices that could shorten our life or dull our God-given thinking abilities.
23 “[Jehovah] gives to all people life and breath and all things.” (Acts 17:24, 25) Life is a gift from God. We love the Giver, so we want to show respect for the gift. We shun any habits or practices that are detrimental to our health, for we recognize that such practices show a gross disrespect for the gift of life.—Psalm 36:9.
24 “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Unclean habits and practices often affect not only the practicer but also those around him. For example, exposure to secondhand smoke can have a harmful effect on nonsmokers. An individual who hurts those around him is violating the divine requirement that we love our neighbor. He also belies any claim that he loves God.—1 John 4:20, 21.
25 “Continue reminding them to be in subjection and to be obedient to governments and authorities.” (Titus 3:1) In many lands, the possession or use of certain drugs is a violation of the law. As true Christians, we do not possess or use illegal drugs.—Romans 13:1.
26. (a) To remain in God’s love, what do we need to do? (b) Why is keeping clean in God’s eyes the best way to live?
26 To remain in God’s love, we need to keep clean, not just in one or two respects but in all respects. Abandoning and keeping clear of defiling habits and practices may not be easy, but it is possible.* Really, there is no better way to live, for Jehovah always teaches us to benefit ourselves. (Read Isaiah 48:17.) Most important, by keeping clean we can have the satisfaction that comes from knowing that we are reflecting favorably on the God we love, thereby remaining in his love.
The original-language words rendered “pure” or “clean” sometimes describe physical cleanliness but more often moral or spiritual cleanness.
See Chapter 13 of this book for a discussion of specific celebrations and customs that true Christians avoid.
How to choose wholesome entertainment is considered in Chapter 6 of this publication.
Name has been changed.