We've all heard that phrase before, most likely voiced by our parents when we obstinately refused our bath or to tidy up our room. As children we scoff and wonder how parents could make such an irrational statement. As we grow older, however, we begin to realize how the statement actually has a double meaning for our lives. The cleanliness spoken of refers to both outward and inward cleanliness. Just as our physical appearance needs to remain orderly and clean, so too does our inner being. If we appear upright and just on the outside, but fail to mirror that appearance within our souls, we become hypocrites. By keeping both our souls and bodies clean and pure, we hopefully create a fit temple for the Holy Spirit.
To make something clean is to, quite simply, make something free from dirt, marks or stains. This process applies to the soul as well when we try to keep it pure and innocent, uncontaminated by the sin surrounding us. The purer we become, the closer to our Heavenly Father we approach. As our persons mirror His purity and truth, we draw nearer to Godliness (or as close as unworthy humans can be.)
So the next time your child complains about having to take a bath or tidy their room, remember this phrase. Use it as a tool for explanation. Explain to your children how keeping things neat and orderly shows respect for the gifts God has given us. That keeping our bodies clean and well-kept shows deep respect for the greatest gift God gave us. And finally, that as we strive to keep the world around us and our outward selves clean, we must also move towards a cleaner and purer soul. This will eventually lead to a perfect union with God.