I don’t know the origin of the saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” but it is certainly not in my Bible. The closest thing I have is the Titus 2 directive to women that they should be “busy at home,” and Timothy 5:14, which tells older women to teach the younger women to “manage their homes.” While I don’t imagine that we honor God when our homes are in a state of disarray or chaos, I do believe that we can allow the pendulum to swing the other way and concentrate too much on housekeeping and not enough on other things that matter. 

A minimal level of cleanliness is necessary for everyone’s health. Certainly we do not want to let food stuffs pile up on the counters, allow our little ones to sleep on sheets that have been soiled, have such a dusty home that breathing is unhealthy, or have the carpets littered with debris that the little ones would be putting in their mouths. That much seems obvious.

Beyond that, it is important for us to keep clean homes so that we are always prepared to “practice hospitality.” That’s in my Bible, so I take it seriously! (See Romans 12:13, 1 Timothy 5:10, and 1 Peter 4:9, for example). I do not relish the thought of someone unexpectedly coming to my home and having to make apologies for its condition. At the same time, I do not think we need to be able to eat off the floors, either. This is our home, and we live here; two adults and six children–all of us, all day, every day. It is not going to be perfectly clean all the time, but we do try to keep it consistently neat.

Another reason to focus on housekeeping is for the value of diligence that it imparts to the children, as they are trained to help with various chores and are encouraged to keep their messes cleaned up behind them. After all, our children are going to grow up to WORK every day, and while we do want them to enjoy their childhood and there is a time for play, they miss a lot if they don’t see the value of work. It also guides them in wisdom, to have them take care of their possessions by having “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” 

Last night my husband went out with four of the six children on an extended errand and I was looking forward to having some time to myself after putting the two youngest ones to bed. All I had to do was put away the few miscellaneous toys that had gotten left out, put some of my laundry away, and get some sleeping bags and pillows out in the tents for the crew when they came home (it was a “camp out” last night, once everyone got home!). Somehow, though, those few things took a lot longer than I thought…and even though I got the little ones to bed at 7:45, I was just finishing up and making myself a cup of tea at about 9:00 when the rest of the family came in the door! Why did it take so long, I wondered? Well, my oldest would have gotten our toddler ready for bed and changed her diaper; the boys would have gone out to put the chickens in for the night and collect the eggs (one of those “unexpected” chores I did along the way…). And I would have had several of the children help with hauling pillows, blankets and sleeping bags out to the tents instead of having to make multiple trips myself. Many hands make light work, and sometimes I do not realize just how much our children help me to accomplish!

I think our children have a great attitude about work and about helping out in service to others–and that is only because we encourage them to help out around the house with all kinds of chores as they are able.Granted, this takes proactive training and patience. We also have to lower our standards a bit when we view the jobs our children do. What is considered “passable” work from a child is certainly not the level of cleaning that I would do. But together, we keep our home in fairly good order.Everyone has daily jobs, both first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon. We have a couple of general rules: Everyone works until everyone is done (so that if one child is done with his job first, he should go help a sibling with her job.) Also, (straight from First Thessalonians 3:10): “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Thus, we do not eat breakfast until after all our morning chores are done. If we have a dawdler (or even two) they get helped out by siblings for as long as they are being diligent. If they are just playing around, they lose the privilege of having helpers and can come to the table and eat along with everyone else once they finish their designated chore. We have had a couple of the kids eat cold food a good hour after everyone else had left the table, but they miss the fellowship of the family and don’t prefer cold food, so that has been a rare exception. Generally speaking, our chores get done within 30-45 minutes and then we are on to more important things.
Of course, in having a rotating schedule of chores the whole house never looks clean at once, but we do maintain a neat appearance. Granted, we have some consistent “piles” of books and papers here and there in our particular “hot spots.” And dusting has never been my favorite thing to do, so if anything suffers, that is it. But these things I can live with. 

We focus on housekeeping and home management for the values that it will impart to our children and in order to be able to practice hospitality in a way that honors God; however, I don’t see any reason to over-invest in this area. If we did, we would be missing out on valuable family times, teachable moments for discipling our children, opportunities for serving others in ministry, and so on. Home management is of value as a means of training our children in godly character–but there are so many other things going on in our home that are of greater eternal significance!

I have always been a person of order and schedules. I love the idea of “home management.” So stepping back a bit in my own expectations over the years has been, at times, almost painful. But now I am at a place where I see the wisdom of this paradigm shift, and I am thankful to the Lord for helping me to keep a balanced perspective in this area. I urge you to examine your own home management philosophy and practices so that your homemaking efforts will be most pleasing to the Lord and productive for His Kingdom.

Copyright © 2008, Cynthia Carrier

Cynthia Carrier is the homeschooling mom of seven children and author of The Growing Homeschool: Integrating Babies and Toddlers into Your Already Busy Schedule and the children’s character training coloring book, Growing to be Like Jesus. She also has written, with her husband, Marc, The Values-Driven Family: A Proactive Plan for Successful Biblical Parenting and Values-Driven Discipleship: Biblical Instruction and Character Training Manual. She has been a popular speaker at homeschool conventions and events.

The focus of Marc and Cindy’s “Values-Driven” ministry is to encourage and equip Christian families to make the most of every opportunity: that is, to serve God, participate in fulfilling the Great Commission, and raise children who love and serve the Lord. For more information about their resources, for fresh inspiration on your family journey, or to find practical helps-including dozens of FREE DOWNLOADS-visit http://www.ValuesDrivenFamily.com.