Should You Wash Your Hands?
B. Hodge, Biblical Authority Ministries, August 12, 2020
If I were to ask most people in the world if they should wash their hands, most will instantly say “yes!” Some might even be a little snarky and say “duh.” Of course, the reason is to be clean and reduce disease.
With the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and flu viruses in full swing, most recognize the benefits of washing hands. But where did this idea of washing hands come from? Why brush your teeth? Again to be clean and stop the spread of disease. But why? Why stop disease? Why be clean?
Cleanliness Is A Biblical Concept
Ever hear the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness”? There is a reason for this phrase. God is the one who defines clean and unclean going back to His revealed Word from Genesis forward. The biblical doctrine of “cleanliness” or “cleanness” is where God defines clean as good and unclean as bad. Yes, there are spiritual aspects to this, but the spiritual concepts are based on the physical reality.
Ever since Genesis 3, with the advent of sin, man has had to deal with sin, disease, etc. Much of the book of Leviticus (one of the five books of Moses) discusses how cleanliness as well as isolation[ if you catch a disease (e.g., Numbers 5:1-3, etc.)] and quarantine procedures [where you or your property have a possible disease or exposed to it (e.g., Leviticus 13:1-6, 13:32-34; Leviticus 14:36-39, etc.)] help stop the spread of disease in this sin-cursed world.
Even prior to Moses, Noah took certain animals that were deemed as “clean” and “unclean” on board the Ark. Jesus even made all foods clean (Mark 7:19)—showing His Godly power. The point is that Bible-believers obviously have a basis for cleanliness like washing hands and brushing teeth.
There are plenty of verses discussing washing hands (or the whole body) for physical cleanliness (e.g., Leviticus 14:9; Leviticus 15:5-27, Job 9:30, Jeremiah 2:22, etc.). So clearly, there is a biblical basis for being clean. But what about non-Christians?
Non-Christians—Why Wash Your Hands?
There are four main groupings of religions which are not Christian:
· Atheistic/materialistic religions (atheism, agnosticism, humanism, naturalism, Epicureanism, etc.)
· Eastern Mystical/spiritualistic religions (e.g., Hinduism, New Age, Taoism, etc.)
· Arbitrary moralistic religions with a vague moral code—that is more like guidelines (paganism like witchcraft, Wicca, and mythologies but also Buddhism and Confucianism, etc.)
· Finally, we have religions that borrow from God’s Word and then deviate from it called counterfeits of Christianity.
All false religions can be lumped into these four types. Let’s look at leading representatives of these groups and see if they have a basis for washing their hands.
1. Atheism—the king of materialistic religions holds primarily to naturalistic and materialistic origins account (e.g., big bang) where there is no spiritual God and no spiritual realm since all things that exist are material (i.e., matter and energy within the physical realm). Life spontaneously arose from non-living chemicals and things evolved into what we have today via survival of the fittest. There is no absolute right or wrong or ultimate meaning of life, and in the end there is nothing but death and an ultimate loss of heat and energy to the universe.
So why wash your hands? An atheist may respond, “So that I don’t catch disease and can live longer.” Why not just die? But if an atheist catches a disease, he will either be fit to survive or not. If not, then dying is consistent with getting out of the way of an evolutionary process.
In this way, the atheist inconsistently values life, another Christian concept by the way where man is made in the image of God. Perhaps catching a disease will lead to the next phase of evolution and washing hands inhibits this. The point is that there is no basis for washing your hands in their religion. Other religions of this type fall victim to the same conclusion.
2. Hinduism is the king of Eastern Mysticism (spiritualistic) religions. It is basically the opposite of materialistic and atheistic religions. It teaches that nothing material exists, but only the spiritual exists. And there is only one aspect of the spiritual that really exists—some ultimate reality or being called Brahman. All is one spirit ultimately, and there are many manifestations of this one Brahman into lesser gods in Hinduism.
In Hinduism, if you believe that material things exist, then you have been deceived (this is called the doctrine of maya). It is similar to the movie series Matrix, which is built on Eastern religious concepts. So all is “one”—in other words, you are me, I am you, and being clean is no different from being unclean since all is one and no one really exists in a material world anyway. Why wash your hands if your hands and viruses don’t really exist? Even if you die, you will come back in a reincarnated from. This becomes a problem for any consistent Eastern mystic.
3. Any moralistic religion has arbitrary rules that are just that: arbitrary rules and opinions. If one moral code within a religion says to wash your hands, then the next person in the same religion can come along, exert their own authority, and say that you don’t have to wash your hands. So there is no ultimate basis to wash your hands. This devastating argument is the death knell to arbitrary religions since there is no absolute singular God who reveals the absolute truth.
4. Counterfeits of Christianity like unitarian deviations such as Judaism, Islam, and Jehovah’s Witnesses and polytheistic deviations like Mormonism. All of these readily borrow from the Bible’s text to agree that cleanliness is good and get it from the Scriptures.
Of course, some go overboard. In Judaism for instance, there were Jewish leaders at the time of Christ—when Jesus became a man and stepped into history—where man’s traditions were elevated above God’s Word (Judaism is the rejection of God’s Word in the New Testament and replaced it with the oral traditions later written down as the Talmud). They asserted that one must wash your hands—in certain ways no less—even when it wasn’t necessary.
Jewish leaders tried to take a good thing (clean hands) and add to it (e.g., Matthew 15:2, Mark 7:3) which made the Word of God of no affect because man’s word was elevated to supersede God in their opinion.
No Basis, Yet Washing Anyway—Why?
Even though they have no basis to wash their hands within their own professed religions, many non-Christians still wash their hands and see the benefits of it. As a Christian, I encourage that by the way.
So why do non-Christians deviate from their professed religions and follow biblical cleanliness? The reasons are simple. One, they may not realize that their religion cannot account for cleanliness. Next, they borrow from a biblical worldview, even on many mundane things like handwashing and unbeknownst to them, they may not even realize it.
Some godly handed-down principles left Babel to encompass the world many years ago—remember Noah understood the concepts of “clean” and “unclean” prior to Babel. Christian missionaries, Christian-influenced media, etc. have taken these reminders/concepts around the globe as well. Many Western and Middle Eastern nations have been heavily influenced by the Bible and have these ideas of cleanliness ingrained in their cultures. But as for a basis, it ultimately comes from God and His Word.
As I see the cultures around the world embrace washing their hands, it is a testimony that God’s Word is true, whether they realize it or not. It’s not that people have to believe that the Bible is true, but that the Bible is true nonetheless. Yes—wash your hands, but bear in mind that this is a Bible-based principle.
 For example see: Leviticus 13:2-6, 26-28, 29-34, 45-58, Leviticus 14:36-48, Leviticus 15:3-13, Deuteronomy 23:12-13.
 David Abrahams, What Are the Differences Between Judaism and Christianity?, Answers in Genesis, July 13, 2017, https://answersingenesis.org/world-religions/what-are-differences-between-judaism-and-christianity/.