In some parts of the world there are bigger things to worry about – but let me tell you about a British problem. You’re taking a walk along a country path, appreciating the beauty of nature around you, and there hanging from a tree is a plastic bag containing a dog poo. Or nestled in the undergrowth is a discarded vape pen, or an empty pop bottle and biscuit packet, or the scattered remains of someone’s fast-food takeaway…

People who have brains find it difficult to appreciate what might be going on in the heads of people who leave litter. Is it that being out of doors is so complicated that they’re not able to negotiate carrying their stuff with them till they find a bin? Or is it that they just don’t care?

That’s it, isn’t it. Litter is a sign of somebody who has space in their head only for themselves.

This is a subject on which it’s easy to be self-righteous. We can all get outraged when we witness other people’s selfishness. And most of us are able to point to other people’s behaviour that’s worse than ours. In a sneaky way, it makes us feel good about ourselves. But let’s take a step back. I know I’m a selfish person. How about you?

So let’s be constructive. Let’s look at an example of someone whose behaviour was absolutely, entirely and constantly unselfish. He’s the one we need to compare ourselves with.

Jesus Christ said, ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve’ (Matthew 20:28). He devoted himself to the service of his God and his fellow people, with no thought for his own comfort (for example Mark 6:30-34). And finally he submitted to a cruel, degrading and agonizing death. As the soldiers crucified him he prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34). He did this for you and me: ‘Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:30).

That’s the person we should be comparing ourselves with!

I don’t know whether they had a litter problem in First Century Judea. Suppose they did, what would Jesus’ approach to it be?

I think he would have tackled the perpetrators when he had opportunity – he always confronted bad behaviour (Luke 7:36-50). He would have done it gently and constructively (Romans 12:18). And when he came across the poo bag or vape pen, he would probably have picked it up: ‘As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them’ (Luke 6:31).

That’s the example we should follow.

Chris Parkin

Picture credit: Thayne Tuason, CC BY 4.0

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