It’s not hard to see how the custom of foot-washing arose in the Ancient Middle East. People walking barefoot or in sandals on dry, dusty earth must have had perpetually dirty feet, so washing them before entering a building was a compelling matter of housekeeping.
It also became a ritual, however, with a host honoring his guests by washing their feet. The most famous example of this is in John 13, when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
The spiritual meaning of washing is purification – cleaning the mind spiritually much as water cleans the body naturally. “Feet” represent our lives on the natural level – the day-to-day outward thoughts and actions that absorb so much of our time. Washing the feet, then, symbolizes purifying the natural level of our lives, applying what the Lord teaches us to our outward, ordinary actions.
Think of it this way: Are you nice to the cashier at the grocery store? Can you forgive someone who accidentally cuts you off in traffic? Do you hold the door for strangers? Such small things may be signs of good clean feet.
(References: John 13:8)