“So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.”
While I appreciate Jesus dying for my sins so I might have eternal life and hope, I cannot agree with his hygiene practices. In today’s reading, Jesus amazed a Pharisee by not washing his hands before eating. Jesus does not apologize for it. He turns the Pharisee’s attention away from hygiene to spiritual care. Spare me the spiritual implications of the lesson. Washing your hands before eating is a non-negotiable practice.
The health benefits of washing your hands is indisputable. Nothing spreads germs and disease quite like unwashed hands. Health Departments have gone into hospitals and discovered large numbers of nurses and hospital staff were not washing their hands after going to the bathroom. It forced hospitals to adopt strict hand washing guidelines.
You would be amazed at how many people do not wash their hands in restaurants after going to the bathroom. Not employees, but guests. Well-dressed people, who’ve obviously spent hours grooming themselves to go out, are not washing their hands before eating. Don’t listen to Jesus, good hygiene is essential for physical health.
However, it is a really good image. If you cannot tell who washes their hands, how can you tell what is taking place inside of other people, or inside yourself? I’m often amazed at how little people understand what is going on inside of their own hearts and minds. It’s very much like your hands, if you don’t see dirt on them you assume they are clean.
So many people have a spiritual longing they cannot describe. They search books, songs, and experiences looking for something to curb their spiritual unrest. Yet, deep inside, their spiritual yearning can often be satisfied by the simplicity of prayer and reflection. Like washing hands, it requires time. Just taking a moment for self-care in the midst of a busy daily. Remember to pray and wash your hands today. It will be good for the body and soul. (Luke 11: 37-41)