Questions From Readers
What responsibility do Christians have in slowing down the polluting of our environment—land, sea, and air?
As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are deeply concerned with the many ecological problems now affecting our earthly home. More than most people, we appreciate that the earth was created to be a pure, healthful home for a perfect human family. (Genesis 1:31; 2:15-17; Isaiah 45:18) We also have God’s assurance that he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) It is thus right to make balanced, reasonable efforts to avoid needlessly adding to man’s ongoing spoiling of our globe. Note, though, the word “reasonable.” It is also Scripturally fitting to guard against allowing ecological issues and practices to become our overwhelming concerns.
Even normal human living produces wastes. For example, the growing, processing, and eating of food products often give rise to waste, though much of it may be biodegradable. (Psalm 1:4; Luke 3:17) The broiled-fish meal that the resurrected Jesus made for his disciples likely resulted in some smoke, ash, and refuse of fish bones. (John 21:9-13) But the animate and inanimate systems or cycles of the earth are designed to accommodate such.
God’s people should not be oblivious of ecological matters. Jehovah required his ancient people to take steps to dispose of wastes, steps that had ecological as well as sanitary import. (Deuteronomy 23:9-14) And since we know his view of those who are ruining the earth, we certainly should not ignore things that we can do to keep the environment clean. We can reflect this in proper disposal of garbage or wastes, especially toxic substances. We conscientiously cooperate with recycling efforts, having added reason to do so if these are mandated by Caesar. (Romans 13:1, 5) And some individuals draw satisfaction from taking additional steps, such as choosing to use biodegradable products rather than ones that would add to the mountains of refuse on land and under the seas.
The extent to which a Christian will go in this direction, however, is a personal matter unless required by law. It is plain from the news media that imperfect humans easily fall into the trap of being extremists. Jesus’ advice is certainly pertinent: “Stop judging that you may not be judged . . . Why, then, do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the rafter in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1, 3) Keeping this in mind may help us not to lose sight of other vital factors.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Ignoring this principle has brought mankind face-to-face with “critical times hard to deal with,” as noted at 2 Timothy 3:1-5. And what God had recorded at Revelation 11:18 proves that human efforts to rid the earth of its major ecological problems, including pollution, will not fully succeed. There may be some progress here and there, but the only lasting solution requires God’s intervention.
For this reason we concentrate our efforts and resources on the divine solution, rather than trying to relieve superficial symptoms. In this we follow the example of Jesus, who spent the greater part of his ministry ‘bearing witness to the truth.’ (John 18:37) Instead of feeding the world or relieving wide-scale social ills—including pollution—Jesus pointed to the complete solution to the problems afflicting humankind.—John 6:10-15; 18:36.
While love for fellowmen moves us to avoid needlessly polluting the land, atmosphere, or water supplies, we continue to bear witness to the truth. This involves teaching people to apply Bible truth and so avoid ruining their bodies with smoke, excessive alcohol, or damaging drugs. As millions of new ones have become disciples, they have learned habits of cleanliness and consideration for others. So the preaching work has made a literal contribution to the lessening of the general problem of pollution today. But more important, Christian disciples strive to make over their personality and habits now so that they will fit into the clean Paradise earth that God will soon provide for his true worshipers.