Cleanliness next to Godliness

Sunday January 18, 2015 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

In all the holy books of the world’s religions, there is a virtue that is named as a stepping stone to Paradise, bringing us “nearer my God to Thee.” 

It seems such a simple one, yet it is the key to our highest good, the secret of a truly successful and happy life. It is one I think of each time I drive around and see the shock of man-made rubbish marring the beauty of our islands. It is one I pray for every morning.  

We have all heard that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’.  The practice of physical and spiritual cleanliness is mentioned often, including in Leviticus 15 and in Isaiah 1:16: ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil’. 

I find it so interesting that cleaning up our spiritual act, by stepping out of the trap of evil-doing, is in the same sentence as washing our bodies. They go together. When our house is clean and orderly, it gives us a sense of fresh opportunity, a clean slate for our minds and hearts as well. Purity of heart, mind and intention is the true goal of every spiritual seeker. It is not a path for the faint-hearted. 

It takes courage to purify our lives, and we must never get discouraged by not starting over after a mistake, even a tragic one. 

I have spent time talking to ‘lifers’ in prison, those who have committed serious crimes such as murder. I tell them, ‘You are more than the worst thing you have ever done. You are full of blessings, full of virtues’. Some become virtues facilitators while doing their time and wash away their hopelessness with service. Inmates in Fiji created the art for the Fijian virtues cards. In Rarotonga a gifted artist who is serving time is doing the same.  

All of us sin. We go off track, off the mark, lose the plot of why we are here. Desire and greed can steal our lives away if they expand out of control of our self-discipline. Yet, we can always be redeemed by choosing to come back to God, to the good. Every mistake we make has the potential to be our greatest teachable moment. And we are never too young or too old to learn. Just like the prodigal son, we are always welcome to come home.  

Our children chant, “Clean mind, clean mouth, clean hands.” A tall order to think, speak and act with integrity, yet it is a worthy goal. Orderliness and tidiness around us, cleanliness of our bodies has a profound effect on our wellbeing and our health. 

When our four year old adopted granddaughter comes to play, she knows that before she leaves, the toys we keep for her in a special drawer, go back in. ‘Toys away’, we chant together.  A yard raked clean not only feels good to us, it inspires others to keep theirs clean. The Baha’i teachings say: ‘In every aspect of life, purity and holiness, cleanliness and refinement exalt the human condition and further the development of man’s inner reality. Even in the physical realm, cleanliness will conduce to spirituality’. 

Ancient spiritual traditions such as Zoroastrianism teach this as well: ‘Next to life purity is the greatest good for man, that purity which is in God’s Religion for him who cleanses his own self with good thoughts, words and deeds.’ (Vendidad 5:21)  The Gospel of Buddha says, ‘Cleanse yourselves of evil and sanctify your lives. There is no other way of reaching truth’.

One way we can all participate in a tide of tidiness, a wave of environmental cleanliness, is to become eco-warriors. ‘When you see a bin, toss it in!’

Let’s follow the example of the landowners who regularly clear the rubbish from their places, keep their grass trimmed and their homes beautified. Let it be a reminder of what the Psalmist said: ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’. (Psalm 51:10) 

If you’re interested in finding out more about the virtues, there will be a “Virtues at Work’ morning tea on Tuesday January 20 at the Te Ipukarea Society in Tupapa.

What will your voyage through 2015 look like and what would you like to achieve? 

How will you achieve your work goals? What will help you be your best and bring out the best in others? 

Here’s an opportunity to come and develop your own personal voyaging chart for 2015. This is a free community event, sponsored by Virtues Cook Islands Inc.

Refreshments will be served from 9:45am and numbers will be limited to three per organisation. Please register by phone / text 72400 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

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