Cleanliness is Next to Godliness: Proverb Meaning and Expansion of idea


The proverb “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” implies that the one who is clean is the one who is nearest to God. Here, cleanliness refers to a clean and neat physical state; though, some may contest that it also refers to being in a clean mental state. There is one thing that the phrase very clearly refers to –one can only get spiritually connected with God if one seeks the same in a neat and clean state of physical as well as mental being”.

Expansion of idea

‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ implies that the practice of cleanliness is as good as worshipping or performing religious obligations. In fact, it is very necessary that one should practice cleanliness if there is a desire to be near to God.

The phrase not only stresses on physical cleanliness but also on the cleanliness of the surroundings as well as clean and pious thoughts. If only your thoughts are clean and you carry a blissful mind, that God and the religion will make sense to you; otherwise you will fail miserably to understand them both.

Short Stories on ‘Cleanliness is Next to Godliness’

Short Story 1

Once there lived a little boy named Raju. He was very playful, but had one bad habit – he didn’t care to be tidy. He used to brush his teeth in a hurry, seldom take bath and wear clothes whether they are clean or not, never washed his hands before eating food.

Though his mother warned him of his untidy lifestyle, but Raju was adamant. He thought nothing could happen to him due to his usual habits. One day it happened so that Raju fell very ill – he caught an abdominal infection and was experiencing excruciating pain. The doctor was called. He checked Raju and zeroed on his untidy and unhygienic personality for the infection. The doctor warned him, that if he didn’t change his attitude, then he will keep falling ill throughout his life.

This incident changed Raju and he became a neat and clean boy who always was conscious about his hygiene.

Short Story 2

Once, a prestigious temple in town was looking for the main priest, who would perform all the religious duties in the temple and will be the second in command after the head priest.

Many priests from far afar places wanted to bag the prestigious post. They all came impeccably dressed in traditional attire and looking neat and clean as never before. There was this one priest named Ramaiya, who was extremely learned, knew every religious scripture in detail, yet he looked clumsy and careless from the way he was dressed and looked. The head priest was impressed by his knowledge, yet he chose another contestant as his assistant.

Bewildered, Ramaiya asked the head priest as to why he wasn’t selected, despite being the wisest of them all. Much to Ramaiya’s embarrassment, the priest just uttered these words that completely silenced Ramaiya. The priest had said –“A clean mind cannot reside in an unclean body; indeed, cleanliness is next to godliness”.


An example sentence with the right use of a phrase in it, will help in instantly understanding the meaning of the phrase as well as its relevance in different situations. Considering this, there are few example sentences are given below, using the phrase ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’ appropriately.

“The way to God goes through a clean body – indeed, cleanliness is next to godliness”

“We must perform all religious obligations after taking bath and wearing clean clothes, because, cleanliness is next to godliness”.

“The blessings of God cannot be gained with an unclean body and mind, because, cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

“A clean body is an essential prerequisite for a healthy life; indeed, cleanliness is next to godliness”.


The phrase ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ was first used by a well-known English cleric and evangelist, John Wesley. It was in 1791 while giving one of his sermons ‘On Dress’, that Wesley mentioned the phrase in a stanza. The exact paragraph of the sermon with the phrase is given below –

“Let it be observed that slovenliness is no part of the religion; that neither this nor any text of scripture condemns neatness of apparel. Certainly, this is a duty, not a sin. Cleanliness is indeed, next to godliness.”

From the placement of the phrase, it is evident that Wesley was trying to make a point that though physical cleanliness is a duty; however, it’s not a sin. That is, it is not mandated by any religious scriptures, not even in the bible.

Since then the phrase had been widely used from time to time by writers, philosophers, and political thinkers.


The phrase ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ is very important from the context of cleanliness. It is a fact that cleanliness is directly related to good health. If only one is clean physically, that he/she will be clean mentally as well and will be in good health. On the other hand, an unclean person residing in an unclean environment is bound to fall sick. Sooner or later, it’s only a matter of time.

Therefore, to stay in good health, it is very important that you stay clean first and also keep your place of residence clean. The phrase also wisely relates cleanliness to God. It makes cleanliness a prerequisite for religious obligations; though, it doesn’t mandate it.

The phrase has also been used by several governments, from time to time, to promote environmental cleanliness and good health and hygiene.