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Does the Bible Say That?

“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Once upon a time, I was thoroughly convinced of the truth of this statement. I don’t know where or from whom I first heard it. I don’t think my mom every weaponized it to motivate me to clean up my things. Yet, it took root somewhere deep in my being, and it drove me…sometimes a little off the deep end.

It drove me to take it upon myself to organize and clean out our garage. It drove me to go back over spots I’d already mowed because the grass just wasn’t standing evenly. It drove me to white-glove test the surfaces of my room, and also many other rooms I entered – even at others’ houses. It drove me to near-fury at typos and grammatical errors in publicity fliers and newspapers. (I’m pretty sure I even marked corrections on some posters at schools and businesses). And it drove me to regularly straighten crooked frames on walls. Can you imagine how this might have been annoying?

It has taken me a long time to learn that this was annoying, that not all people are wired the same way, so to speak, and that, in fact, the Bible doesn’t say it. Of course, we can find passages in the Bible about cleanliness (see Isaiah 1, Psalm 51, and Matthew 25, or this article). Some have suggested that John Wesley, the instigator and leader of the Methodist movement, actually should get credit for the origin of the phrase. He said, “[Slovenliness] is no part of religion” in his sermon, “On Dress.” (For what it’s worth, this is not included as one of the standard sermons of Wesley which United Methodists include as part of our official doctrine or teaching on beliefs).

The phrase and idea that “cleanliness is next to godliness” has certainly had an impact on me, and quite frankly, there are ways in which it still drives me (and makes me feel guilty for not cleaning well). It’s also borne some fruits in my life at times – like, I know how to iron shirts. But it hasn’t really helped me love Jesus more, or love others well. In fact, it’s actually been a hindrance to meaningful connection with others at times. Can you relate, or is this just me?

This season, we’ll be exploring five similar sayings that can often be drivers in our lives and relationships. These well-meaning phrases are part of our common speech. There are scriptures that support them, but others that refute them. And they’re worth examining because they can confuse, discourage, or alienate people from God. Sometimes they hurt others. This series, in conversation with the book Half-Truths by Adam Hamilton, empowers us to better understand God, comfort each other, grow in our knowledge and understanding of God. But, to do that, we have to know what is actually in the Bible, what it says, and more importantly, what it means.

Pastor Matt will host a sermon and book discussion on Mondays at 6pm following each sermon in a room yet to be determined (9/11, 9/18, 9/25, 10/2, and 10/9). Books are available in the Narthex and the Office. Below is the schedule of sermons and some of the texts related to each saying. The first one listed will be the primary text for preaching.

- September 10 – “Everything Happens for a Reason” – Deut. 30:29-20a

- September 17 – “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” – 2 Thes. 3:10-12; Lev 23:22; Ps 18:6, 16; Ps 121; Jn 1 and Jn 3:16-17

- September 24 – “God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle” – 1 Cor. 10:7, 11-13; Js 1:3; 1 Pet 5:7

- October 1 – “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” – Deut. 23:12-14; Mt 5:17-20; Act 15

- October 8 – “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” – Mt 7:1-15; Lu 7; Rom 12:9; Col 3:12-14; Pro 4:23

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