Holiness in Work Clothes
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for as it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.’ 1 Peter 1:15-16
William Dunn Longstaff was a businessman, the son of a wealthy English ship owner. His days were filled with numbers and transactions, closing deals and pleasing customers. But his heart was aflame with love for God; he desired that “each thought and each motive [be] beneath His control.” So Longstaff wrote in a poem that became the lyrics of “Take Time To Be Holy.”
Sometimes we’re tempted to place holiness in a gilded frame hung in an ornate cathedral—far removed from daily life. Or maybe we associate it with the gentle hands of a missionary working among lepers—a selflessness we’ll never achieve. But Longstaff understood that holiness should be the everyday work clothes of ordinary folks like you and me:
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
As Longstaff’s words suggest, holiness is the image of Christ that other people see in us whether we’re taking our dog for a stroll, washing dishes in a steamy restaurant kitchen, or hammering out laws in Congress.
Both the Greek and Hebrew words for holy refer to something or someone “set apart for God, to be, as it were, exclusively his.”* Location doesn’t matter. Whether the Ark of the Covenant was in the tabernacle or being transported across the desert, it was still holy. Whether a Levite was ministering in the temple or walking along the Jericho road, his behavior was supposed to honor God.
To be holy is to be noticeably Christ-like in whatever we do. Forgiveness for an inconsiderate coworker, patience with a busy food server, kindness to a rude neighbor—that’s holiness in work clothes. Holiness is simply taking the opportunity to display God’s character in a way that prompts other people to glorify Him (1 Peter 2:9,12).
The secret of a holy life, as Longstaff wrote, is to “speak oft with thy Lord, abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.” That, of course, requires both desire and dedication. But if we “take time to be holy,” our lives will emit a heavenly fragrance that will edify other people and glorify God. Is that a commitment we’re willing to make?
Read 1 Peter 2:9-24. What are the characteristics of “a royal priesthood”–people who belong to God?
Read Numbers 3:5-8. What were the Levites’ responsibilities? What are our duties as members of God’s royal priesthood? Read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
Read Exodus 19:1-8. Before God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, He gave them a new identity. What was it? Why did Israel need to understand who they were? Why do we need to understand who we are?
To read all of the lyrics to “Take Time To Be Holy,” go to http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/t/a/taketime.htm
Denise K. Loock
*Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for hagios (Strong’s 40)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2013. 29 Jul 2013. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G40&t=KJV >