I publicly confess that I am not overly fond of brushing my teeth. I do brush my teeth, mind you, but it is not a part of the day that I look forward to. In fact, after I got married, one of the great sacrifices that I made to please my new bride was that I agreed to brush my teeth at least twice a day. Indeed, such monumental compromises only take place when someone is very much in love. And yes, after nearly 14 years of marriage, I am still scrubbing those teeth morning and evening as a faithful expression of my love for my wife.
Now, as random a piece of information as that may seem, there is a rhyme and reason to my madness. In our theological circles, we often talk about how the Bible is “our only rule for faith and practice” and that God’s word is there to equip us for “every good work.” Now, typically, we apply this as a guide to what we believe in our spiritual life and to what we do in our gathered worship. We also tend to be quite comfortable applying this principle to moral questions and for most, it is not too great a shock for me to say that we should rely on Biblical principles to guide our professional lives and our personal interactions in the community as well. So far, so good…
Yet, if we are going to take this language to its logical end, we ought to be able to apply the Bible and its principles to even the most mundane things that we do…well, like brushing teeth. So, the obvious question is, how does the gospel inform and even transform your teeth brushing?
Most of us will be quick to think of 1 Corinthians 6:19 and cite that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and thus should be cared for. This is a good start, though it does take a passage that is talking about not engaging sexually with cult prostitutes a little out of context. So, where else might we go? Peter reminds us that we are to always be ready to give a defense of the hope of the gospel we have within us (1 Peter 3:15) and Paul teaches us that we should be well thought of amongst the unbelievers in our community (1 Timothy 3:7). One logically might infer from those statements that it might be an impediment to sharing the gospel were we to have bad breath or a little piece of parsley leftover from dinner caught in our teeth. Moreover, if we are to be “winsome” with the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-22), we ought to take care of ourselves in such a way that potential converts would want to fellowship with us and not see our presence as something to be dreaded. Yet, is this as far as the application of the gospel can go to the mundane areas of our life?
As Christians, we understand that we are made in the Image of God (Genesis 1:27). The idea that the scripture presents is that when we look at ourselves in the mirror or at others, we are looking at ones who represents God himself. Now, as you are reading this, don’t get a swelled head, the Bible also affirms just how far we are from a perfect representation as Christ is the only one who has done that for us. Yet, even so, it means that we carry within ourselves an inherent dignity and that as Christians, we have a responsibility to see that dignity preserved in others as well as in our own lives. God has given us these bodies and how we treat them with a certain degree of reverence ought to reflect the reverence for the one in whose image we are made. Thus, the abuse of our bodies is sinful because it reflects a lack of respect for God’s image and care for our bodies—even in simple ways like good hygiene—is an aspect of our worship, not of ourselves, but of the one in whose image we are made.
The atheist or non-Christian in our culture will have other reasons for their hygiene, most of which are quite practical, though some border on vanity. They will not, though, understand the fullness of their actions or root those actions in anything or in anyone outside of themselves. As Christians, we are ultimately “People of the Book,” and that book, the Bible, instructs us in not only the most significant things we do, but also in the most mundane aspects of our life. Of course, to be able to apply the book one must first know it, so I encourage you to drink deeply of God’s word and then apply it to things in your life both great and small. And, let the word of God, not practicality or vanity, guide your every action in all of life.