The recent decision by the city of Perryville to suspend curbside recycling has caused me a certain amount of sorrow. I have read for months of how the worldwide recycling market has been in turmoil and so I was not surprised by the city’s move, but I was sorrowful. Perryville is the first place we have lived that had curbside recycling, and so we have been very devoted in our recycling. That will not change; we will just have to take the extra step of delivering our recyclables, at least for a while. But it got me to thinking about how reducing, reusing and recycling seem to relate pretty closely to the Christian life.
“Reducing” refers to lowering the amount of something we use - water, electricity, or some product. Reducing is good. Keeping the blinds closed on the sunny side of the house reduces the electricity we use. Driving more slowly reduces the amount of gas we use, or so I am told. But how about reducing when it comes to our walk with God? One area we can reduce is speech. Proverbs 10:19 tells us, “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.” Ouch! I don’t think the Bible is telling us not to walk, but we certainly need to measure our words. What if I reduced the percentage of useless and wasted words? Proverbs 16:27 is even more blunt: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop; idle lips are his mouth piece.” How are my lips idle? Maybe they are idle when they are not being employed in ways that are productive and helpful. What if my lips are idle when they do not say the positive and kind words I had the opportunity to say and I blew it? What if my lips are idle when I use them to say things that were better off not said?
“Reusing,” when it comes to environmental concerns, means to use something over, again and again. One example is the drinking fountains the Perry Park Center installed a few months ago. You can lean over and drink from a stream of water, but you can also stick a water bottle underneath a faucet and refill the bottle. And so a bottle or other container can be reused many times and prevent many bottles or other containers from being uselessly tossed in a trash can. And God is an awesome reuser of people and their talents and abilities. King David in the Old Testament is a great example of God’s willingness to reuse people that we would think broken and beyond repair. David was involved in a selfish act of adultery, followed by arranging the murder of the husband of his lover and trying to cover up all of this sad chain of events. But God brought the prophet Nathan face to face to David to confront him with his sin. This encounter brought David to confession and repentance. And Nathan announced that God would reuse David: “The Lord has taken away your sin. You will not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). Take heart! God did not create junk, and he can even take those we consider to be junk and reuse them for higher and nobler purposes.
And then we have recycling. This is when we take something no longer useful and make it useful again. It may have a different shape and size, but it once again has a purpose. I read something a few months ago about how, over in Europe, a company was turning plastic bottles into road paving material. Hopefully, some companies here in the United States are working on that. And God recycles people who are no longer useful and makes them useful again in the life-changing event of conversion. He takes lives that are damaged in ways that we could never repair and makes us useful again, even better than we were before. God tells us, “I am making everything new” (Revelation 21:5)! And that is what he did with me. He took the raw material he had created and I had misused and twisted, and he recycled that into something new.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Good words when we talk about the environment. Even better words when we are talking about how God works on us. Will you let him do that work in you?