Have you ever heard of World Hand Hygiene Day? No, I’m not making that one up. The UN began this annual observance in 2009; it’s coming up this year on May 5. And PLEASE don’t confuse it with Global Handwashing Day on October 15. Yup, you read that right – TWO international “holidays” dedicated to handwashing. Remembering other significant concepts like love (Valentine’s Day) and peace (World Peace Day) only get ONE holiday a year — but handwashing gets two? Maybe it’s because we have two hands. Who knows!

Clean hands count, I get it. Religious hand washing rituals were commanded in the Old Testament, but the medical acceptance of unwashed hands spreading disease is only about 130 years old; even though the man known as father of handwashing figured out its life-saving power 50 years earlier. Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician became known as the “savior of mothers” when he made the connection between unwashed hands and childbed fever, a disease that was killing about one in five mothers giving birth. He outlined a handwashing procedure for the obstetrical clinic he ran at the Vienna General Hospital, and it reduced mortality to less than one percent.

You may be wondering why it would take five decades for handwashing to become an accepted medical practice, especially given such dramatic results. It’s because doctors were offended by the mere suggestion that they could be part of the problem! Since germs were undiscovered at the time, doctors felt insulted by the mere accusation that upper-class people such as themselves were responsible for spreading any sort of disease. As a result of pressing his point, Semmelweis was ridiculed, mocked, ostracised and eventually fired from his position at the hospital. He was accused of being deranged, irritating and an embarrassment; and his family had him committed to an asylum! He was severely beaten by the orderlies, contracted an infection from his injuries and died of sepsis, the very type of blood infection that he spent most of his life fighting to prevent.

The verse we’ll look at together today says:

God’s word helps us to draw near to Him. As we read it, study it, or even read a daily devotional like Mornings with Bishop Robert, He speaks to us and touches our heart. One good thing about drawing near to God is that, when you do, He will draw near to you. He wants us to have clean hands, but also a pure heart. There’s even a verse in the book of James that specifically says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Now God isn’t talking about external personal hygiene, but about the purity that comes from eliminating sin in our lives. There’s a lot more to being holy than going to washyourlyrics.com, a website that will create a handwashing sign from any song you chose, and using Amazing Grace to make a washing technique poster. It’s a mistake to focus on the outside when the worst issue is on the inside.

The Pharisees and the scribes in Jesus day saw some of His disciples eating with unwashed hands and were offended that they did not keep the tradition of the elders. They were referring to the Jewish ceremonial washing. Jesus turned their attention to the situation on the INSIDE of their lives.

He told them that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them, because it does not enter their heart. It goes in the mouth, through the body and out the bum. Done! Jesus made the point that it is what comes out of someone that defiles them! For out of our hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. All these evils come from within, and these are what defile us.

Not surprisingly, the Pharisees and the scribes were offended by the mere suggestion that they could be part of the problem! Even though they were well aware of sin, they felt insulted by the mere accusation that religious people such as themselves had any role to play. So when Jesus accused them of disregarding the commandment of God to keep the tradition of men, they got very angry indeed.

Jesus was ridiculed, mocked, ostracised and eventually arrested for His teachings. He was accused of being deranged, irritating and an embarrassment; and at one point His family thought He was out of His mind! After His arrest, He was severely beaten by the guards, nailed to a cross and died as a result of the sinful actions that He spent most of His life preaching against. Sound familiar?


We do the same thing, you know. We believe that we are essentially good people. We know that we sin, but say things like, “Well, nobody’s perfect!” and excuse our faults, failures and deliberate wrongdoing. Often, we feel insulted by the mere accusation that wonderful people such as ourselves have any responsibility for the sin in our lives, let alone for its impact spreading any sort of sin-induced impact on those around us.

We act like there will not be any final judgement of our works. Or, even worse, as though God will use some sort of a cosmic balance scale to judge us with “good things we did” on one side and “bad things we did” on the other. But no courtroom on earth works that way, and God is the perfect judge. No one charged with a crime they actually committed would be so foolish as to make a defense of all the crimes they didn’t commit. “Well, your honor, it’s true that I murdered John and his three kids. But I didn’t break into his house, steal his money or rape his wife. So you should set me free.” We know that would never work with a human judge, but we think we’re going to pull that very defense off with God !!! Not likely.

Even if you think that people speaking about sin and Jesus are deranged, irritating and an embarrassment – that does nothing to deal with the issue. And while it took the medical community five decades to accept the truth about germs, you may not have five more decades to wrestle with the truth about sin.

Should we wash our hands? Absolutely! But don’t make the Pharisees mistake. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Then you can not only cleanse your hands, but you can apply the word of God and purify your heart. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins AND to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That’s REALLY clean.

Jesus is more than the saviour of mothers, He’s the Savior of the world.

So wash more than your hands. Do it today. Do it often.


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