I can remember the time when I was a boy that I saw a person in the car ahead of us throw a piece of paper out of the window onto the roadside. It troubled me, because somehow I knew that it wasn’t proper behavior. I don’t think that anyone had to tell me that it wasn’t right, I just knew that the side of the road wasn’t for trash disposal. Years later, as I was driving down the road in my own car I was inconvenienced with some trash on the seat, so out the window it went. I also knew that it wasn’t right, especially after I had done it. No one had to tell me that I had a bad conscience. What my conscience told me was enough. It did not approve of my behavior, it made me feel bad about what I had done, and I didn’t try to justify my deed. I was wrong, and from that point on as best as I can remember, I did not ever again carelessly throw anything on the highway. I regretted my litterbug ways, and turned back to what I instinctively knew to be true.
My conscience no longer bothered me about being a litterbug, because I wasn’t doing the deeds of a litterbug anymore. But I was still pretty bugged. Only this time it was by the people in the car in front of me gaily shoveling styrofoam cups, empty cigarette packs, and beer cans out the windows. How could they toss all of that junk out their windows without some twinge in their conscience, the same twinge that I had? It wasn’t fair. If they could commit this environmental crime without suffering in their conscience, how come I couldn’t do the same without feeling lousy about myself? I’m no moral Superman, able to leap tall mounds of sin. Bullets don’t bounce off my chest, things don’t come easy ‹ I have to work at being a better person. How come my conscience has to give me such a hard time when others get off scot-free? Why, it’s like they don’t even have a conscience!
Exactly. Or to be more accurate, they don’t have a conscience that still hurts them inside when they do wrong. When I chucked that trash out the window of my car that day, something inside of me suffered ‹ I went against what I knew was right. I could have come up with a hundred reasons why it was OK. "I don’t have a trash bag in the car. I don’t have time to stop to dispose of it. The last time I kept a cup on the floorboard, the ice melted inside, I made a curve, and it spilled on my carpet." Not to mention, "Besides, if the police stopped me and found this empty beer can in my car, I’d be in trouble." So... out the window!
You know, mankind has always struggled with this kind of thing. Not the trash, but his conscience ‹ and the trash that man lets accumulate in his conscience until he becomes like those people in the car in front of me who could dole the garbage out their car window all day long without batting an eye. It is possible to harden your heart against what you know to be true, even to the point that your conscience no longer is able to direct your behavior. And then what are you good for? You are certainly no good for the earth. She could get along fine without people of bad conscience defiling her natural beauty and delicate balances. Poor earth!
But there is another side to it. The arena of man’s conscience isn’t restricted to how he should deal with roadside garbage. It goes far beyond that. The conscience covers the entire realm of man’s behavior; everything he does is governed by this instinctive knowledge, unless society so perverts his upbringing that he can no longer tell good from evil.
When mankind tolerates the violation of his conscience, then as the old saying goes, he reaps what he sows. This can easily be seen in the realm of the earth’s environment, but is harder to define when it comes to man’s behavior towards himself. Since man has been given dominion over the earth, then you can judge his spiritual state by how he has governed what has been given to him. Obviously, the earth is not in a good place; the pollution in man’s soul is evidenced outwardly by all the trash in his global back yard.