By Not Known

In some places ‘holiness’ has a bad name. It is associated with prudishness, sanctimoniousness, censoriousness and self-righteousness. Is this what God means when he calls us to: be holy because I am holy (Lev 11:44; 1Pet 1:15)?

A basic idea in holiness is that we are to be different. We are to be separated from God-denying ways of living in order that we might be separated to God’s way and reflect his character.

Holiness is not a matter of being other-worldly, but being this-worldly in a very grounded and God-pleasing sense.

Worldly holiness is on view in Deuteronomy 14-16. God’s people are reminded that they are his treasured children and are to be holy to him. But holiness is to show in everyday conduct.

For starters, certain foods would not be on their plate (Dt 14:3-21). This was not just a matter of (possibly) healthy eating, but also of showing their holy character by being publicly different from other peoples. It is worth noting that Christians are explicitly released from these food laws (eg Acts 10:9-14; 1 Tim 4:3-5). However, we can show holiness by a free choice of restraint in our diet and by helping hungry people to have food to eat.

Holiness also touches our time and treasure.

Time was money in a farming community like ancient Israel. Yet they were to down tools for several annual festivals and trek to the central place of worship (Dt 16:1-17). We are not farmers and nor do we share these religious festivals. However, there is still a challenge here. Can we show Christian holiness by making generous time available for things or priorities such as family, Christian activity and community service?

Old Testament Israel faced a struggle to build national and personal wealth as she settled in Canaan. Yet part of her holiness was to trust God’s provision by obeying his command for a tithe on income, cancelling all personal debts every seven years, lending to the poor with little chance of repayment, freeing fellow-Hebrew slaves with a generous bonus and giving the first-born of their stock to the Lord (Dt 14:22 – 15:21). Once again, Christians are free from the specifics of these commands – but how do we show holiness with our far more vast treasure?

May God give us wisdom to know what worldly holiness is in our terms and faithfulness to show it.

David Burke