It’s a Golden Rule issue, not just a conservation issue
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
I know it’s December now. Christmas is upon us. Therefore, this column should have a Christmas theme. Nevertheless, I wish to deal with an important issue while it is fresh on my mind. Let me begin with an experience from more than two decades ago.
Lon Chenowith called me one Monday morning with understandable irritation in his voice. Over the weekend someone had dumped a load of used tires onto the church property, and he had already had a call from the county about the situation.
Lon was the pastor of First Baptist Church of West Pembroke Pines, a new church he had started at the edge of the Everglades in South Florida. The church had a long name and a short budget. Attendance ran about twenty-five on a good Sunday. Meeting in the clubhouse of a local trailer park, the congregants were eager to move on to the lot the church owned nearby. Three trailers already sat on the property, but they had to be prepared for use and the property itself brought up to county standards. Fees would run into the tens of thousands of dollars. The small congregation simply did not have the money. While the church slowly saved its meager funds, the property sat unused.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous businessman took advantage of the situation and had his laborers dump their load of used tires onto the church property. Normally they would have to pay a hefty fee in South Florida to dispose of such trash. Instead, the church was suddenly saddled with that responsibility. County health officials did not care that the church was the victim of a crime; they ordered the church to dispose of the tires properly, at church expense of course. It cost the congregation $200 (over twice that amount in today’s dollars). It hurt.
Did the violators realize that they were robbing the church just as surely as if they had pulled a gun and stolen out of the offering plate?
Fast forward to 2011. A few weeks ago the Friends of Cove Lake State Park held a clean-up day to pick up trash around the park grounds. Football players from Campbell County High School graciously helped out. From the woods out to the footbridge, the group I was with picked up bottles, cans, paper, and plastic. Carrying one of our two heavy bags like Santa Claus, I could not help but wonder if the perpetrators actually thought their trash would magically biodegrade or if they just didn’t care about the inconvenience they caused others to clean it up.
I regularly see the same assortment of litter on the roads I bike ride. I am reminded of the potato chip bag I threw out our car window once as a boy. My mother and grandmother jumped all over me for that one. How could I be so thoughtless, trashing the roadside like that! Yet on my own street now an empty beer carton tied up in a plastic sack sits patiently waiting for its owner to come back and deposit it into a trash bin. Certainly, conservation of the beautiful land our Creator has given us is commendable. But even more important is adherence to the Golden Rule. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded that we treat others as we would want them to treat us. Leaving our trash around for others to pick up violates that command.
Maybe this issue does have something to do with Christmas, after all. Christ entered the human race not to be served but to serve, even to the sacrificing of His life for our sin. As He cared for each of us, we ought also to care for others. Before you throw out that next bottle or can, you might consider whose street or park you are trashing and who might have to clean it up.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).