Littering is the leaving of trash or other discarded items in places where they do not belong for someone else to dispose of. The Bible does not mention littering and never says, “Thou shalt not litter.” At the same time, it is abundantly clear that littering is not good and that a believer should not be a “litterbug.”
Litter destroys natural beauty and makes roadways, parks, and public places unsightly. It can also injure wildlife, as animals can be strangled, trapped, poisoned, and suffocated by human litter. Litter attracts rats and other vermin. Litter is unsanitary and can spread disease. Littering is an arrogant and irresponsible choice that shows a total disregard for others who must endure it or clean it up.
When we toss a paper sack or empty soda can out the window of a moving car, we are pretending that it magically disappears. Out of sight, out of mind. But when we are in the car behind litterer, we have a different viewpoint. When we’ve looked forward to an outing in nature or a day at the park with children, litter mars the experience. When we visit a rose garden or picnic under a stately pine, the sight and smell of scattered, decomposing trash is offensive. In recent years, litter has become more dangerous, as it commonly contains discarded needles, condoms, and drug paraphernalia.
Jesus’ Golden Rule applies to litterers. He said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). Imagine strangers coming onto your lawn and emptying their kitchen trash can and then walking away. Would we be okay with that? Would we joyfully wave goodbye to them as we started picking up their litter? Of course not. We don’t want to find other people’s trash where it doesn’t belong; therefore, we should not throw our trash where it doesn’t belong, either.
Public parks, roadways, and nature trails do not belong to individuals but to everyone. So, if we throw trash there, we are littering on someone else’s property just as much as if we threw our trash in their front yard. Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” A person littering does not look out for the interests of others. Littering is a selfish act of short-term convenience and the avoidance of responsibility. It is also illegal in all fifty states of the U.S. For all these reasons, the Bible stands against the practice of littering.
As believers, we do more than shun the wrongdoing; we actively engage in righteous acts. Many churches and Christian groups regularly participate in neighborhood clean-up days, join in picking up trash in parks, or volunteer for an Adopt A Highway or Sponsor A Highway litter removal program. Littering happens, but conscientious Christians will help to clean up the mess.