This was a question I often heard from my mother in childhood. I think for her, it was important to add those last two words, “real good,” at the end.
I believe she knew you could wash your hands real bad. And I think real bad would’ve been everything from just running the water a second or two over the hands, or not using soap, or not washing at all. So to her, “real good” meant hot soapy water and plenty of friction in between the fingers and over the hands; all the while, hot water flowed in and around. Finally, the water was turned off, and drying your hands with an appropriate towel would follow. Also, if need be, straighten the towel back on the towel holder, and turn out the light before exiting the bathroom.
Covid 19 has ushered in all kinds of reminders about hand washing, the spread of germs, and good basic hygiene. I find it amazing that our culture and government support things mamas and daddies are supposed to teach. But if you missed this in your childhood, there is no way to miss it now. 2020 is your year to get the memo!
I’m not too fond of hand sanitizers. When I was a substitute teacher, I saw children’s hands soiled with dirt and grime. As an effort toward sanitizing, children would independently approach the classroom sink toward the plastic bottle of the gel-like substance to “wash” their hands. Sometimes I’d approach and urge the child to turn on the water and use soap to wash their hands. Usually, the child rebuked me, to my dismay, telling me that the soap dispenser was empty. Since my paradigm only supports soap and water as a successful handwashing practice, then the choice between hand sanitizer or just water was not worthy of consideration!
People have to choose to be clean. For believers, staying clean before God is a matter of worship and praise, reading His Word, and fellowship with Him in prayer. All this is best done regularly, often, even when you don’t feel like it. When any of these can’t be done, it’s a red light indicator to check on your heart. The Bible says that God looks on the heart. Your mother may have determined your cleanliness by looking on your hands. But God is concerned about both.
Psalm 24:3-4 says: Who may ascend the mountain? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
James 4:8 says: Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Isaiah 1:16-17a says: So wash your hands. Make yourselves clean. Get your evil actions out of my sight! Stop doing what is wrong! Learn to do what is right! Treat people fairly. Give hope to those who are beaten down. Cheer them up.
Psalm 63:4 So I will bless You as long as I live; in Your name I will lift up my hands.
The next time you wash your hands because it seems the right thing to do, think about what is going on in your heart. Usually, you need just to tell Jesus you are sorry and to help you to think right and to do right. Wash your hands, but be sure while you wash, you’re letting the Spirit in to wash your heart too.
Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…Psalm 26:2
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