From A Charles Dickens Devotional
Mrs. Joe was prodigiously busy in getting the house ready for the festivities of the day, and Joe had been put upon the kitchen doorstep to keep him out of the dust-pan . . .
Joe . . . ventured into the kitchen after me as the dustpan had retired before us . . . [He] secretly crossed his two forefingers, and exhibited them to me, as our token that Mrs. Joe was in a cross temper. . . .
We were to have a superb dinner, consisting of a leg of pickled pork and greens, and a pair of roast stuffed fowls. . . .
So, we had our slices served out, as if we were two thousand troops on a forced march instead of a man and boy at home . . . In the meantime, Mrs. Joe put clean white curtains up, and tacked a new flowered flounce across the wide chimney to replace the old one, and uncovered the little state parlor . . . , which was never uncovered at any other time, but passed the rest of the year in a cool haze of silver paper, which even extended to the four little white crockery poodles on the mantel-shelf, each with a black nose and a basket of flowers in his mouth . . . Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by their religion.—Great Expectations
Pip, the orphaned main character of Great Expectations and narrator of this passage, resides with the Gargerys— Pip’s abusive sister and her kind husband, Joe. Mrs. Joe keeps her house hospital clean, and heaven help anyone who dirties it! In his description, Dickens purposely fashions her home as the antithesis of Christian cleanliness. You will not find the proverb “Cleanliness is next to godliness” in the Bible, but the Scriptures have much to say on the topic of keeping clean. The Old Testament offers scores of laws concerning cleanliness in its literal sense; however, when Jesus arrived, He had a new interpretation. In Mark 7, we read that the Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for eating bread with unclean hands—against the traditions of their elders (vv. 1–13). Jesus told them that “unclean” does not mean dirty hands or a dirty house, but a dirty heart (vv. 18–23). In His Sermon on the Mount, He told the crowd, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). In a spiritual sense, cleanliness is next to godliness. A clean heart is our pathway to God. Christian cleanliness means being pure in our thoughts, attitudes, and in everything we do. The apostle John said, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. – Psalm 51 :10
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