Environmental Holiness

I have a confession to make. Most of the time, my blogs just reflect whatever I’m trying to process myself. I’m definitely not an expert on the history of Israel, I haven’t been an activist concerning abuse in the church before, and I’m always talking to other pastors trying to get multiple sides of the story because I just don’t know what I don’t know. Over Christmas break, there were a series of events that caused me to really think about something called environmental holiness. At least that’s the fancy way to really talk about should we recycle. 

I visited my sister in California who just had her second kid. In her house, they have two trash cans, and on the wall above each trash can they had drawn “landfill” with a frowny face, and “glass, paper, plastic” over the other one with the recycle symbol. I’ve never been so convicted of a stupid frowny face in my life. It got compounded by all the things that Californians do on a regular basis that caught me off guard. They used biodegradable straws everywhere, the grocery store didn’t give you bags, forcing you to either bring your own reusable bags or buy them from the store, they promoted carpooling with HOV lanes and parking centers and phone numbers all designed to reduce pollution (but probably mostly traffic, because traffic is awful). 

Then, in one of my youth pastor groups, someone asked what our views on the theology of recycling was. There was mostly support for recycling, people would quote some scripture about God placing man as care takers of the earth and it seemed like a positive conversation… until we found out the reason it was brought up in the first place. This guy’s pastor had thrown away some trash in the youth’s recycling bin and said “well the Earth is only temporary”. And there it was, while we were all assuming that recycling lined up with just about any interpretation of the Bible from specific verses to broad strokes, we were faced with there are people who can still take another stance on scripture and come to the complete opposite conclusion. 

    To be clear, even thought the Bible never specifically addresses recycling, I personally think that you can make very strong arguments that environmental holiness is a thing and that God cares about how we treat the world. Recycling is one aspect of that. But at some point, if you really have to go to the lengths of hermeneutics and exegesis to determine if you should recycle there are some bigger issues. We shouldn’t have to invoke God to come to the conclusion we need to take care of His creation. 

One of the more curious things I’ve been dealing with is that non Christians tend to have a very different set of moral standards, or at least a different cause for those standards. They don’t steal, not because the Bible says “thou shall not steal” but because they inherently understand that that hurts the other person. California, one of the more unchurched states in America, has this inherent understanding that we should protect the earth, not because God created it, but because they want their kids to breath clean air, see the great barrier reef, or just be able to go outside and enjoy nature. 

So I guess the real question isn’t “Would God want us to recycle?” and then we research that and try to make Bible verses fit into our modern day context. Rather, I think we should be asking ourselves “how is it the rest of the world already understands the need and importance of this but we are still trying to Biblically justify it?”

While it’s a little late for New Years resolutions, I still think this is the perfect time to start being more aware of how wasteful we all are. Take those extra two steps to throw your bottle into the recycling bin (or better yet, use a reusable bottle), buy an extra trash can and mark it recycling, or just bring your own bags to Walmart next time. 

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.