What does the Bible have to say about spring cleaning?
Recently my wife and I have realized the month of March is a perfect time to do some spring cleaning. We’ve been going through various parts of the house and taking a careful look at what we have collected over the years, in the way of books, clothes, toys and games from when the kids were small, and all kinds of stuff that has accumulated over 30 years in the same home.
Our goal has been to deep clean, de-clutter, to get rid of the things we no longer need, use, or love.
Now, you may be wondering, “Hey James, it’s great you’re cleaning your house, but I thought this your website and podcast are about the Bible. Where does the Bible fit in with all this?”
I’m so glad you asked.
A perfect heart
My wife came across this verse in Psalms and it’s what really prompted our efforts to de-clutter.
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalms 101:2 KJV
Here’s the same verse from the New Living Translation:
I will lead a life of integrity
in my own home. Psalms 101:2 NLT
What an intriguing idea! To walk in my house with a perfect heart, to lead a life of integrity in my own home. That covers so many possibilities. No guilt, no shame, no emotional baggage, no procrastination of dealing with stuff, physical or mental.
Some people put on an appearance of having their lives all together when they are around others out in the world, at work, at church, at school, but at home, and in their hearts, their lives are a mess. Or maybe their houses are neat and tidy, but their hearts are full of negativity.
I can relate to that. Hey, years ago when I was a full-time stay-at-home dad with three little kids, I did not always do the best job of keeping the house clean. One time a friend rang the doorbell and I wouldn’t let him in the house because it was so messy.
And there have certainly been times when I was struggling with a moral issue, but acted like everything was fine.
Spring cleaning and hundreds of books
Getting back to the present, Polly (my wife) and I have been striving to walk in our home with a perfect heart and all that implies in every way. Here’s one little example of what that looks like in the case of de-cluttering.
Recently we got a new chair for the living room, which doubles as my “prayer chair” during my morning Bible study and prayer time. It sits right between two book cases, but there were lots of books in these cases that we never use.
Most of my Bible study books were in a book case across the room. Every time I wanted to use one, I had to get up, walk over there, and come back to reinstall myself in my prayer chair. Not a big deal, but I didn’t always get up to retrieve the book I needed.
So, when we got the new chair, we also rearranged where the books were. We went through several hundred books, put all my Bible study books within reach of the new chair, reorganized others into new spots, and donated about 100 books, which we didn’t need or want any more, to a local library.
It was not that hard to do. And it felt great to have things better organized for our current lifestyle. But more importantly it was very empowering to get rid of things we didn’t use. We felt a wonderful sense of freedom.
And when I came downstairs the next morning and saw what we had accomplished, I was amazed at the difference this made in my mental attitude.
I just wanted to do the “happy dance” all the way around the living room because I had really taken care of what I needed. And now I could focus so much better on what was important.
And I got a little taste of what it means to walk in my home with a perfect heart.
Lead a life of integrity in your home
To walk with a perfect heart, to lead a life of integrity in my home means, among other things, to be honest with myself about the stuff in my house, and in my heart.
What keeps us from getting rid of the clutter in our homes? What keeps us from taking the time to evaluate what we have and decide what to keep and what to get rid of, or what to give to others? Why do we carry around the mental and emotional baggage that weighs us down and needs to be disposed of? What keeps us from walking in our homes with a perfect heart?
We come up with so many reasons, some of them more legitimate than others, but behind almost all of them is some sort of fear, or we’re not loving ourselves. Then we create a façade of excuses to hide what’s at a deeper level in our thinking.
Does the Bible say anything about spring cleaning?
So, I got to wondering if there was anything in the Bible about spring cleaning, accumulating and getting rid of clutter or things that were no longer needed.
Now, if you’ve listened to The Bible Speaks to You Podcast for a while, you know I love to garden and I’ve had several episodes using metaphors from the garden to bring out ideas in the Bible. (See links to some of them below.)
I have realized that some of the gardening metaphors, which Jesus uses, for example, also apply to what’s going on inside the house as well, because Jesus is really talking about what’s going on inside our thinking, whether we’re in the house or in the garden or where ever we are.
Here’s one of those metaphors that has always meant a lot to me. Jesus explains to his disciples that he is like a grape vine and they are like branches. God is the gardener who prunes and trims the vine so it will be more productive. The dead and unproductive branches are cut off and disposed of. (See John 15:1-6 below)
Jesus is talking about our relationship with him and how the Father maintains that relationship as a gardener prunes his grapevines.
But the metaphor also sheds light on how we can keep what is productive in our lives and get rid of what isn’t.
Let God do the pruning
Maybe that’s where some of the reluctance comes from, in not dealing with the stuff hidden away in our closets or buried in our hearts. We think we have to decide what to get rid of how to get rid of it.
When we can see that it’s God who actually removes the unfruitful things and thoughts from our lives, it’s a bit easier to let something go.
How does this passage about a gardener pruning branches apply to you and me cleaning our house, whether it’s our literal house or the secret storage chambers of our thinking?
Well, when was the last time you took an honest look at the fruitful and unfruitful activities in your life? When have you looked at the things in your home with the question: Does having this particular item in my home “bear fruit” so to speak, of the kind Jesus is talking about? Is it something that turns my thought toward God or pulls my heart away from God?
Is it something that helps you see and love yourself as worthy of God’s love, or is it something that reminds you of a time when you felt you were unworthy?
For example, some of the books we sorted through earlier this month we didn’t really need or want any more. But some of them did not bring us closer to God. So we got rid of them.
Spiritual spring cleaning
It’s a little harder sometimes when you’re cleaning out your mental bookshelves. Just as you may want to hold on to a favorite, but completely worn out T shirt that doesn’t fit, to switch to a clothing metaphor, we sometimes hold on to old, worn out or harmful attitudes, about God, ourselves, or someone or something else.
Here’s the time to remember that God is the one who prunes away the dead and unfruitful branches. And He trims slightly the branches, or areas in your life that are fruitful, so you will be more fruitful or productive.
And to use another gardening metaphor – Jesus’s parable of the tares and the wheat – on a deeper level, it’s God’s job to oversee the removal of what’s not appropriate from what needs to be kept, whether it’s some of the stuff in your house or some of the thoughts in your heart.
Cleaning your house
Another aspect of spring cleaning is the process of actually cleaning your house, again whether we’re talking about your mental or physical house.
Jesus tells a very brief parable about a woman who cleaned her house because she had ten pieces of silver but had lost one of them. When she finds it, she rejoices. (See Luke 15:8-10)
The coin here is a drachma, which is one day’s wage.
According to one of my favorite Bible commentaries, William Barclay,
“The mark of a married woman was a head-dress made of ten silver coins linked together by a silver chain…It may well be that it was one of these coins that the woman had lost, and so she searched for it as any woman would search if she had lost her marriage ring. When a single sinner repents, there is joy in heaven just as when a woman finds her most precious possession after it had been lost.”
Jesus takes something that almost everyone could identify with, losing something important, and cleaning up your house, and when you find it you’re filled with joy. Jesus takes the parable to a much higher level and explains that when one sinner repents, there is much rejoicing in heaven.
When you clean your house, and you know I’m going to say it, your actual house or your spiritual house, you often find important and valuable things that had been lost.
Finding lost treasures in your home
For example, when we were cleaning up a room we had stored a bunch of stuff in for several years, we found the recipe file boxes we got from Polly’s mom and aunt. There was one particular recipe my wife wanted to find, and after going through seven or eight large recipe file boxes, she found what she was looking for, her mom’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. She has been wondering where that recipe was for almost twenty years.
Now you may think an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe is not such a big deal and certainly not as valuable as that silver coin worth a day’s wages Jesus was talking about, and you’re entitled to feel that way. But to my wife, it was priceless.
By the way, if you would like to see that recipe, check it out here: pollycastor.com.
And in the process of going through all those recipes, she got rid of most of them.
This is a metaphor for looking into our spiritual house and finding treasures we had forgotten about or lost track of. Recently I was reminded about something that happened years ago, and I remembered how God had blessed me and protected me in a particular situation.
Now with all this literal and figurative house cleaning and getting rid of stuff, I think it’s important to remember the warning Jesus gives when you clean your house, especially referring to the mental one.
Jesus explains that when an unclean spirit is cast out of someone, it might come back and things will be worse than before because there was nothing done to prevent its return. (See Matthew 12:43-45 below.)
If a wild dog got into your house and made a mess of things, and you finally got him out, would you clean everything up, then leave the door open when you go on some errands?
Of course not, that wild dog could easily come back with other wild dogs and make things even worse.
When you go to all the trouble to clean your spiritual house, and actually get rid of some of the emotional baggage and negative self-talk that has been weighing you down, it’s important to defend that new found freedom and not go back to ideas or practices or people, which were a bad influence on you.
There will be temptations and you may think you want to let those things back into your life, but Jesus has laid it out plain and simple that when we go back to bad attitudes and practices, things can be much worse.
Getting rid of negative things and thoughts
Jesus has some pretty important things to say about getting rid of negative thinking. He says if your right eye or right hand causes you to sin, you should pluck it out or cut it off. (See Matthew 5:29, 30 below)
This is a metaphor, of course, for getting rid of thoughts and practices, which may be very much a part of lives, but are a negative influence. It’s Jesus’s way of saying to get rid of the things in your life which don’t bring you closer to God.
And of course, it’s always easier to see when someone else needs to clean up their house or their life. Jesus has some choice words to say about that too. He says we shouldn’t try to cast out the speck from our neighbor’s eye when we need to get a beam or a plank out of our own eye.
To put this in the language of spring cleaning, clean up your own house first, get your own act together before trying to help your neighbor. (See Matthew 7:3-5)
So, if you’re doing any spring cleaning in the next month or so, and if you’re listening in the Southern hemisphere, this can apply to you too, whenever you do spring cleaning, let God guide you in what to keep in your home and what to keep in your heart.
No need to hoard things
There’s no need to hoard things or thoughts. Jesus said not to store your treasures on earth but in heaven. (See Matthew 6:19-21 below.)
You are not richer because you keep everything. You aren’t somehow better off if you hold onto hurts and fears from the past.
Let God be the one who helps get rid of what needs to be disposed of.
The dust bunnies under your bed, the clutter in your room, and the worn out or unused clothes in your closet are not part of your house. You can let it all go. And if there’s something of value that you don’t need any more, share it with someone else.
More importantly though, the negative thoughts about yourself, the painful memories from the past, and any thought or practice that has pulled you away from God, is not part of you.
You’re not getting rid of something that is part of who you are. You’re getting rid of the mental dust and clutter.
Paul shares a wonderful lesson he learned about himself and it helps us as we grow closer to God.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
Paul is talking about when he did not know Christ, he thought and acted very differently, but as he grew in Christ, he put away those old, material thoughts and habits.
This can be an example for us. And it’s important not to put the horse before the cart. Just trying to get rid of things or thoughts that are not good for us can be a challenge. The key is first to discover more of Christ in your life and follow him.
Jesus put it this way,
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 NKJV
Let’s put first things first. Let’s seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. That’s what originally inspired my wife to clean our house.
It wasn’t just to get the house clean and de-cluttered. That would be totally boring for her. But she could totally get behind walking with a perfect heart in her house. It’s about putting God first and letting Him direct your thoughts and actions.
When you do this, you will bear much fruit and it will glorify God.
Previous episodes with gardening metaphors:
27 What Kind of Seeds Are You Planting in Your Heart?
66 We Reap What We Sow
80 How to Redeem Missed Opportunities from God It’s about compost
108 How to Separate the Wheat from the Tares
William Barclay Bible Commentaries (affiliate link)
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James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Psalms 101:2 KJV
2 I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
Psalms 101:2 NLT
2 I will lead a life of integrity
in my own home.
John 15:1-6 NLT
1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.
2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.
4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.
6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.
Luke 15:8-10 NLT
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?
9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’
10 In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
Matthew 12:43-45 NIV
43 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.
44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. [somebody had done their spring cleaning, but they left it unguarded] 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
Matthew 5:29, 30 NKJV
29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
30 “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Matthew 7:3-5 NLT
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?
4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?
5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Matthew 6:19-21 NLT
19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
Matthew 6:33 NKJV
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
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