"Catherine how do you keep your home so immaculate?" She replied, "The Bible says God is a God of order. I am a Christian. God is my example for order in my home."
Sanctification is God's effectual work in us, renewing our natures in holiness. It is a process of applying the gifts of repentance and faith — putting off the life of the flesh and putting on the life of the Spirit (Eph. 4:22-24). Being slothful is a work of the flesh that wars against peace and order. It is sinful to conduct one's life in confusion and upheaval, neglecting stewardship and accountability to God.
Being the keeper of the home is not a sentence of servitude, but a time-honored opportunity for service and ministry. It can be a glorious visual testimony of God's gifts and abilities, and is certainly the woman's theatre where Christian virtue is exercised.
As REALTORS®, through the years, we have noticed a decline in the basic housekeeping of properties offered for sale. They are either sterile showplaces or residences of the slothful. Working homes, faithfully kept, are a rarity. Such homes, where customers enjoy lingering, are a pleasure to show and are quickly sold. "Excuse the mess but we live here," is often the blanket justification cast over unmade beds, filthy kitchens and piles of dirty laundry. "Don't let the cats and dogs out" is the homeowner's usual showing instruction for the REALTOR®. The outstretched cat on the Corian island cooktop is no surprise! One would almost enjoy setting the animals free from the stench of excrement that fills the house! We recently interviewed a homeowner, who needs to sell her rental property. A real live cow lives in the basement. (Go ahead, call Harrison's cell phone to verify the cow! 865-924-9618.)
Years ago, when the movement of the Spirit of God was more pronounced in American society, a woman was disgraced if her home was constantly dirty. It was a reflection upon her character and upbringing. Only recently have we Christian women acquired a mentality for deserting housekeeping in favor of ministering to the world. God's vivid instruction for virtuous living in Proverbs 31 is shocking! Look at what the virtuous woman does not do. She does not teach or hostess Bible studies, or congregate for prayer. She is not running here and there, giving the gospel or gadding about from spiritual group to spiritual group, ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
The slothful woman is often contemptuous toward the woman who works diligently to keep her house in order. Like a door turning upon its hinges, she would rather remain in her sloth, year after year, than exert the energy to move forward (Prov. 26:14). Working from one apology to another, she is not fully content with her situation, but too lazy to correct it. She spends more time manufacturing reasons for being a slob than she does completing her best intentions. Her association with others like herself consoles her. She knows to do good (James 2:14; 4:17), but justifying her actions is easier than employing her energies.
Natural revelation, God's revealing Himself in nature, sets before our senses the orderliness of creation. Nothing is haphazard or unfinished. From the least to the greatest, God's creation manifests His glory. Special revelation, His written Word, is a written revelation of Himself. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Prov. 9:10 NAS). Fearing God in our hearts and faithfully engaging in diligent study of special revelation, the Scripture, furnishes us with more than a meager, insufficient application of truth. When we sometimes read a little here and there, we lack the grasp and suitable application of Divine meaning.
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God. (Prov. 2:4, 5 NAS)
God's one Book, teaches us how daily affairs are to be conducted. All Scripture is significant, endowed with precious meaning and purpose. God has given us a guiding pattern in everything. He has left nothing to the discretion of human judgment. Beginning with the law in the Old Testament and reading forward, our minds are reverently awakened again and again with God's requirement for careful orderliness. Those whose hearts are not thirsty for the smallest morsel of God's Word may stand on the bank beside the still waters and never take notice of the refreshment offered to their souls.
We see obedience in the orderliness of Abraham in offering Isaac on the altar, upon which he had "laid the wood in order" (Gen. 22:9). Abraham could have interjected that sacrificing his son was enough, and laying the wood in order was really not all that important.
Elijah's putting the wood in order, cutting the bullock in pieces and laying it on the wood is a testimony to his obedience to keep the pattern furnished him in the Scriptures ( 1 Kings 18:33). "Those details in the conduct of Elijah are the more noteworthy because of what is recorded of the prophets of Baal on this occasion: nothing is said of their 'putting the wood in order' or of 'cutting the bullock in pieces and laying him on the wood,' but merely that they 'dressed it and called on the name of Baal,' (I Kings 18:26). Ah, it is in these 'little things,' as men term them, that we see the difference between the true and false servants of God."1
In Exodus 25, God gave the pattern for the tabernacle, which symbolized God's dwelling among His people. It also symbolized the heavenly temple (Heb. 8:1-6; 9:1-15). Everything was to be in order just as God has commanded. "The pure candlestick, with the lamps thereof, even with the lamps to be set in order, and all the vessels thereof, and the oil for light" (Exodus 39:37 KJV). "And he set the bread in order upon it before the Lord; as the Lord had commanded Moses" (Exodus 40:23 KJV). "And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And the priests, Aaron's sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar" (Lev. 1:7, 8 KJV).
We are awestruck with the responsibility and orderliness required by God in the sacrificial system. Did you know that the book of Leviticus contains more direct words from God than any other book in the entire canon of Scripture? Can we arrogantly ignore any part of God's Word, brushing it aside as if Christ's atoning grace nullified the appropriate doctrine and practice given as enduring guidance to our depraved souls? The truth of Scripture, all Scripture, is a radiant light that illumines our hearts with indelible impressions.
The significance of the burnt offering burning all night long (Lev. 6:8, 9) feeds our souls. "His [God's] words reveal views of sin and righteousness that appear overwhelmingly awful to men. His eternal justice, flaming forth against all iniquity, is declared to Israel in the fire of the altar. This fire is never to be extinguished: 'for every one of His righteous judgments endures forever' (Ps. 119:160). It burns all night long an emblem of the sleeplessness of hell, where 'they have no rest, day or night' - and of the ever watchful eye of righteousness that looks down on this earth. … The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever…tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb' (Rev. 14:10) … 'So shall you perish' might an Israelite father say to his children, taking them to his tent door, and pointing them in the gloom and silence of night to the altar. 'So shall you perish, and be forever in the flames unless you repent!' It exhibited also the way of escape. See, there is a victim of the altar on which these flames feed! Here is Christ in our room. His suffering, seen and accepted by the Father, was held forth continually to the faith of Israel night and day. And upon that type, the pledge and token of the real sacrifice did the eye of the Father delight to rest night and day. It pleased Him well to see His justice and His love thus met together there. And the man of Israel, who understood the type, slept in peace sustained by this truth which the struggling rays from the altar gleamed into his tent."2
What opportunities we have to teach our children about God's righteous view of sin and how He reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ ( 2 Cor. 5:18). Through His sinless life and shedding His precious blood in death, Christ secured our salvation, not just making salvation possible. Because of Christ's perfect sacrifice for us, satisfying God's divine justice upon our sin and sinfulness, we are not required to offer an animal to atone for our sins. We are required to accept Christ's sacrifice for us and in so doing to yield our entire being to His glory. We, His elect, have been forgiven, released from the power of sin, cleansed and enabled to live righteously. We are to be living sacrifices in everything (Rom. 12:1, 2). Whatsoever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). There is no room for disorder or living as a slob. Our personal appearance, the appearance of our homes, our children, and all that we possess, should reflect our first, and best offering to God. We say we do not have time to be orderly. That's what sacrificing is all about. We are to give up our laziness, our misdirected energies so that all that we do will bring God glory. We weaken our ability to minister to others when we give ourselves to indolence. We deceive ourselves thinking, "A little more sleep, a little more slumber" (Prov. 6:10; 24:33), will equip us to do our work, when our lazy habits are only strengthened by our procrastination.
The orderliness of Rahab's housekeeping in Joshua 2:6 is a testimony of a virtuous woman working willingly with her hands (Prov. 31:13). Craftsmen in Scripture were "filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship" ( Exodus 31:2-5; 35:30-35 KJV). Daily duties are never separate from accountability. We must be good stewards of the time and possessions entrusted to us. Whatever our hands find to do, we must do it with all our might (Eccl. 9:10). This is our reasonable service.
In referring to the church and the activities among believers, Paul reminds us that all things should be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). God is a God of order, not of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). As Christians we live by the power of God for the glory of God, enabled to exercise order over every sphere of our lives.
God does not call us to do anything for which He does not equip us for that particular service. "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6 NAS); "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13 NAS). A deliberate, straight pathway in Scripture is always upheld as opposed to a neglectful, casual disregard. Slackness and careless indifference is never championed as noble. The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 is careful and attentive, having no time to waste. The sloven woman is just the opposite. She is clamorous, having loads of time to talk and giggle, "leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all" (2 Thes. 3:11 NAS). She finds it easier to be a busybody than work with her hands correcting her disorder. She is rebellious, and her pathways are slack and twisted. Her fleshly lust openly opposes Divine wisdom. The daily chores within the home have long given way to justifiable excuses and incessant negligence. She is a foolish woman whose carnal mind is at enmity with God, settling for meagerness instead of enjoying a feast of covenantal blessing.
Solomon records in Proverbs 24:30:
I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, and received instruction.
"A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,"
Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man. (NAS)
Instead of disregarding the field, the vineyard and the stone wall, Solomon looked and received instruction, provided by God. He carefully considered what he had seen. The slob rebels against such instructions, yet if she were directing her own hired laborer, she would not hesitate to impose merciless standards, while complaining that her laborer gave insufficient accountability for slipshod work. We are often undiscerning in the lessons God sets before us and demand sacrifices we are seldom willing to give.
The sanctification of a slob is a hard road. The bondage of laziness and sloth is as a hedge of thorns (Prov. 15:19). "He plants his own hedge, and then complains of its hindrance. … Every effort is like forcing his way through a hedge of thorns, where every thorn-bush tears his flesh. Indecision, delay, and sluggishness, add to his difficulties, and paralyze his exertion; so that after a feeble struggle of conscience, with much to do, but no heart to do anything, he gives up the effort. … He knows that he needs a change. He makes an effort to pray; or he takes up a good book. But all withers for want of purpose of heart. Exertion is to him impossible. He sees no hope of overcoming, and sinks again. Nor is this merely the beginning of his path. It is his way-his whole course. … [The slothful man] is still surrounded by a hedge of thorns, unable to force his way, pierced, disheartened to the end."3
"Let our Father's voice be instantly heard-'Son, go work to-day in thy vineyard.' (Matt. 21:28). Dost thou not see, that it is overgrown with thorns? Look forward, not backward. Complain not, but decide. Pray not only, but strive. Always connect privilege with practice. Prove the principles of moral character, as well as spiritual experience. Aim at every active exercise that may strengthen religious habits. … It was not the meaning of our Lord and Saviour in saying - 'Father, keep them in thy name' -that we should be careless to keep ourselves."4
1. A.W. Pink, Elijah, 148.
2. A. A. Bonar, An Exposition of Leviticus, 49.
3. Charles Bridges, Proverbs, 209.
4. Ibid., 461-462.