After the Jews returned to the Promised Land following their exile in Babylon they had to be taught that holiness is not contagious, but unholiness is. They believed two lies:
- Doing holy things like rebuilding the temple or offering sacrifices would make them holy.
- Being in the Holy Land made them holy.
They thought this would make them holy without actually being holy themselves. God had an important message for them, which he delivered through the prophet Haggai by asking two questions.
First question: “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?” (Hag 2:12a).
Holiness is not contagious!
Haggai asked, what happens when something holy touches something unholy? Does the unholy object become holy? The priests correctly answered, “No” (Hag 2:12b). Holiness doesn’t rub off on unholy things. Just as…
- Healthy people can’t walk through a hospital and touch sick people and make them healthy.
- Non-spoiled food can’t come into contact with spoiled food and make it non-spoiled.
Second question: “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?” (Hag 2:13a).
This question presents the opposite situation of the first. What happens when something unholy touches something holy? Does the holy object become unholy? The priests correctly answered, “Yes” (Hag 2:13b).
Unholiness is contagious!
If something unholy comes into contact with something holy, can it make the holy object unholy? The priests correctly answered, “No” (Hag 2:12b). Unholiness does rub off on holy things.
- Sick people can spread sickness to healthy people.
- Spoiled food can spread mold or bacteria to non-spoiled food.
The first question reveals holiness can’t be transferred, but the second question reveals unholiness can be transferred.
Even though people understand this physically, there seems to be a tougher time understanding it spiritually. People will say they’re going to take something from the world and sanctify, redeem, or make it holy, but if it’s unholy in the world, it’s unholy in your life. We can’t bring unholy things from the world into our homes or churches and make them holy or sanctified, but they can make us unholy and affect our sanctification.
Jerry Bridges said, “Holiness begins in our minds and works out in our actions. That being true, what we allow to enter our minds is critically important. The television programs we watch, the movies we attend, the books and magazines we read, the music we listen to, and the conversations we have all affect our minds. We need to evaluate the effects of these using Philippians 4:8 as a standard. Are the thoughts stimulated by these true? Are they pure? Lovely? Admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy?”
The principle applies to relationships too.
The Old and New Testaments discuss the negative affect people can have on other:
- Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Pro 22:24-25). The angry person learns to control himself by spending time with a patient person. Instead, the patient person learns to become angry.
- The companion of fools will be destroyed (Pro 13:20b). The companion of fools doesn’t save fools through their relationship.
- Go from the presence of a foolish man (Pro 14:7a). You don’t spend time with fools so you can teach them knowledge and wisdom.
- Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor 15:33). Good company doesn’t fix bad habits. Instead, we can be deceived into believing associating with the wrong people won’t hurt us. We can believe their poor behavior isn’t “contagious.”
- Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14).
What are Christians – or holy people (1 Pet 2:5, 9) – supposed to do? Preach the Gospel! Seek to see spiritual healing take place in their life. This is the example Jesus set. Believers don’t have the power to change other believers, say nothing about unbelievers. But the Gospel can. When people embrace Christ, the Holy Spirit can accomplish the saving and sanctifying work that’s necessary.
Have you ever found yourself learning “bad habits” when you became too close to someone? Have you shared the Gospel with someone and seen the Holy Spirit introduce holiness into that person’s life? Share your testimony below.
You can listen to the sermon this is drawn from here.