Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Ordeliness, Neatness, Cleanliness

  Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:

Orderliness, Neatness, Cleanliness



Richard Hollerman

A virtue that sometimes people overlook is neatness, orderliness, and cleanliness. Some people dismiss this as an indifferent trait. However, the orderliness with which we conduct our affairs tells people something about us and what we value. It is a characteristic of far-reaching magnitude, one that affects many areas of our life.

Orderliness has been described as “keeping everything that is under our jurisdiction neat, clean, functional, and its proper place.”[i]  The English word orderly means “arranged or disposed in a neat, tidy manner or in a regular sequence. . . . observant of or governed by system or method.”[ii]  The Greek taxis means, “an arranging, arrangement, order.”  Luke 1:8 says that Zacharias “was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division.” This is a reference to “the fixed succession of the course of the priests.”[iii] 

The term order has special application to the conduct and arrangement of the public gatherings of the saints.  Paul says, “All things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Corinthians 14:40).  With regard to the conduct in the assembly, the apostle says that “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (v. 33).  “Here is the key to the whole chapter.  The church at worship before God should reflect His character and nature because He is a God of peace and harmony, order and clarity, not strife and confusion.”[iv]  This order may be seen in Luke’s account of the early company of Christians in Jerusalem: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).  Note also Paul’s commendation of the Colossian saints: “Even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ” (2:5).  Instead of “good discipline,” the ESV has, “. . . rejoicing to see your good order.”  The term here is taxin.

God Himself is a God of order.  This is observed in His creation in six days, with specific parts of His creation occurring on each of those days (Genesis 1).  As one examines the plans of God for the tabernacle and the contents of the tabernacle, he can see the intricate detail, the careful symmetry, the precise order, and the neatness in all that was constructed at God’s direction (cf. Exodus 25-40).  God said to Moses, “See . . . that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain” (Hebrews 8:5).  God was the One responsible for the neatness and order reflected in this place of worship.  Remember also the yearly system of feast days and holy days, all of which indicates a careful and precise system established by God.  Since God is a God of order, neatness, and system, it is good that the Christian so order his life and surroundings.  Just as Israel was encouraged toward cleanliness, so the Christian should seek to be clean in body, clothing, home, automobile and all his environs.  John Wesley said, “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” but someone revised this to say, “Cleanliness is not next to Godliness; it is part of Godliness.”[v]

How can one implement a life of order and neatness?  (1)  One can follow a wise schedule.  “As orderly people, we should make the best use of every minute, because time is one of our most valuable, yet most limited, assets.”[vi]  (2) One can listen to orderly music.  Much of the secular music today is worldly, chaotic, disorderly, and confusing.  “Orderly music is consistent with the nature and ways of God. . . . Those addicted to disorderly music are motivated to violate the order of Godly thinking, behavior, and relationships.”[vii] (3) One must maintain orderly behavior.  Disorderly behavior is of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), while orderly behavior is of the Spirit (vv. 22-23). “Perverted behavior is taking that which God created for one purpose and using it for an adverse and damaging purpose.”[viii] (5) One can maintain clean surroundings. “Where there is disorder, there is uncleanness.  Where there is uncleanness and filth, there is usually moral corruption.”[ix]

As we consider how our lives can reflect order, neatness, discipline, and carefulness, we might well consider these points: (1) Begin the day with wise planning and quality time with the Lord. (2) “Seek to discern God’s will for every decision.” (3) Listen to music that “is in harmony with the character of God and honoring to your parents and other Christians.” (4) Allow your “dress and appearance” to “reflect order and show respect for how God made you. (5) Maintain an “orderly system for necessary records. (6) Carefully “steward your home, yard, and car.” (7) “Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.” (8)  Keep your home “ready to receive guests on short notice.” (9) “Encourage younger brothers and sisters to be orderly and attentive.”[x]  

As a Christian, keep your house (your kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, living room, study, and other rooms, as well as the garage and out buildings) clean, neat, and orderly.  Keep your car or truck clean, neat, and orderly.  Keep good records and do things on time.  As we allow God to work, we will make progress with cleanliness, neatness, and orderliness.  The following verse of the hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind by John G. Whittier says it well:

Drop thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of thy peace.


May our “ordered lives” make an impact for all of those who need to see the ways of God.  And may these ordered lives reflect orderly minds.

[i] The Power of True Success, p. 138.

[ii] Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

[iii] W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary.

[iv] MacArthur Study Bible, 1 Corinthians 14:33 note.

[v] The Power of True Success, p. 138.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Ibid., p. 139.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Ibid., p. 140.

[x] Ibid.



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