God delights in lavishing us with gifts. He loved us so much He gave His only Son for our sins. “How will He not also, with Him, freely give us all things?” the Apostle Paul asked (Romans 8:32).
In the beginning, He made us a fresh, luxuriant garden, where we could work and walk, at peace with Him and with each other. In wisdom He also made the sea, “vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number…and Leviathan, whom [He] formed to frolic there” (Psalm 104:25-26).
We saw a lot of fish frolicking in the South China Sea when we lived in the Philippines and had a chance to snorkel. Those fish were flat, pudgy, pointy-nosed, polka-dotted, striped, neon, darting, drifting, swirling by in schools, and tiny, up to school bus-sized!
I remember laughing out loud into my snorkel when one fish swam by. It wasn’t a striped sweetlips, but it was something as outrageous! Only a God with a sense of humor — who wanted to delight us — would make such things.
In one demonstration of His lavish love, God gave us this amazing, intricate world. In sad contrast, it seems we are carelessly trying to ruin it. We might not be people who litter. Yet, on the altar of convenience, we are sacrificing our earth — and our health. We are gradually filling our land and seas with plastic.
I love convenience! But not if it means wrecking my Father’s world. Not if it means, as one study suggests, I ingest a credit card’s worth of plastic every week, largely through drinking water. The study, based on the conclusions of 52 other studies, said that in the United States, 94.4% of tap water samples contained plastic fibers. Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined, a third of which is leaked into nature.¹
Death (and disease) by plastic
Americans alone discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year; only 8 percent of it gets recycled. Chemicals within plastic leach into the water system from landfills and discarded trash, which are then ingested through our water supplies. These chemicals are in nearly everyone’s blood and tissue. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.²
We know better than we did in 1955 that plastic is harmful. Or do we? Last weekend’s trip to the beach here in Florida showed that many people are still fine with leaving plastic debris behind for the waves to wash away.
It’s truly time to reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose. It’s time to look closely at our habits. We love the ease of running into a store to grab a bag of this, a bottle and a tray of that, never thinking about the plastic bags, bottles, wrap and styrofoam trays we will soon be discarding, to go somewhere, marring the earth and jeopardizing our health.
How intriguing it is that the pandemic has given many of us time instead to refuse the bags and bottles and celebrate the domestic arts, like baking bread, and mixing our own salads and dressings. How interesting it is that kitchen chores provide a way of resting. They free our minds to think or to pray or to listen to Scripture or an audio book. I’d like to make this creative, restful way of living my new normal — what God intended from the beginning.
Would you join me in my journey to be a faithful steward of God’s earth and our health? Let me know what you may already be doing.
Some of the things I’m trying to do so far:
- Take my own reusable shopping bags to the store for groceries.
- Use my own reusable produce bags for loose fruits and vegetables rather than buying the ones packaged in single-use bags or netting.
- Buy food and other products packaged in recyclable glass, aluminum, or cardboard.
- Wash and reuse the ziplocs that food comes in, rather than buying new ziplocs.
- Use cereal or bread bags for storage or sandwiches.
- Bring my own reusable cups, straws and cutlery to use at fast food restaurants (as well as my own containers for left-overs), rather than accepting still more plastic and styrofoam from the restaurant. Most employees applaud you. Some may look at you funny, but it’s worth it.
- Instead of paper or styrofoam cups and plates and plastic cutlery for parties, put the dishwasher to work. Paper plates are difficult to recycle as most are coated with plastic, and once they’re soiled, they can’t be recycled anyway.
- Join the growing trend to use bar soap, shampoos and conditioners.
- Use a handkerchief and avoid the paper and plastic packaging of facial tissues. Think about adopting other thrifty ways of yesteryear.
I dream of a store where I can run in and buy everything I need without concern about containers or packaging. Today’s stores carry few products packaged in eco-friendly ways. If we are serious about changing mindsets, as much as possible we should buy those few products, which may cost a little more, or order from responsible companies.
Cringing is not enough
I like the Pay As You Throw plan some communities use, where people are not charged the same rate for trash pickup, but according to the weight of their own trash. That would make us more careful about what we buy! We need to lobby our local and national governments to impose stricter regulations on plastic production, recycling and waste disposal. I am convicted that cringing every time I throw plastic away is not enough.
Recently I wrote a company I have patronized since I was in my 20s:
Thank you for making products I have trusted and benefited from for many years. I have become concerned about the deadly effects of plastic on our health, so I can no longer buy your products. I suggest you change your containers and other packaging for something eco-friendly, as more and more consumers, like me, feel we must turn to other alternatives. Thank you.
Maybe if enough of us wrote letters like that and took our business elsewhere, companies would begin to take us seriously.
The most careful consumers of all
I believe we who follow Jesus should be the most careful consumers of all — as much as we possibly can. Working toward beauty and health for everyone is part of the Golden Rule Jesus taught us. “In everything … treat people the same way you want them to treat you,” He commanded (Matthew 7:12).
There will always be people who throw trash around. And one day this world will burn up. But until then, we can do our best to protect it, as well as our health. It’s not as important as sharing the good news about Jesus, but it can be part of sharing God’s extravagant love with others.
I want everyone to be able to drink untainted water, laugh at a striped sweetlips or sit on a clean seashore, marveling at the Maker of the vast oceans. Let’s make it happen for our grandchildren, and do what we can for ourselves and our children — in honor of the One who loved us so much He lavished a world, and His Son, on us.
Lord, it’s hard to change our ways. But You made this world for our health and joy. Help us live out our thankfulness. Help us be wise and faithful stewards of Your wonderful world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
All photos by our friend Wade Mantlo, taken in the Philippines; except disposable dishes photo by Peter Stackpole, Life Picture collection; “Peanut” the turtle, John Miller; seahorse, Justin Hofman.
If you haven’t discovered life in Christ, don’t hesitate to check it out. Life is too short to miss His love and perfect plan for you. Read About “The Nearness of God” or see Everyperson.com for more information. You can also read my story of coming to faith in Christ in: How My Song Began.