Does God care about the issue of chemical toxins in common products? I believe the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” I also firmly believe he wants us to care about it, too. Here’s why:
1. God created us with physical bodies. Psalm 139:13-14 says, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . . Your workmanship is marvelous.” God could have created us as disembodied spirits, but he chose to house our spirits in intricately designed physical forms.
2. God pays attention to the state of our bodies. He knows us so completely and cares about our minds, souls, and bodies so deeply that he is aware of how many hairs are on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30). We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:13 that “our bodies . . . were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.”
3. Our bodies don’t belong to us. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Verse 15 says, “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? “
4. Because God owns our bodies, they are to be used to honor and glorify him. We are called to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), presenting our bodies to God for his use.
5. Being good stewards of our physical forms means doing our best to keep them healthy and functioning well. God can and does work through people with broken bodies, but that doesn’t negate our responsibility to faithfully manage the physical resources we’ve been given. The Bible instructs us on many aspects of physical health, including diet, drinking, overeating, and the importance of rest.
6. The Bible also addresses the issue of toxins. Although the man-made chemicals that saturate our present-day world didn’t exist in Biblical times, the Bible gives us some important clues on how to deal with them when it discusses household mold. Mold can produce mycotoxins, which can affect the body in much the same way that chemical toxins can. In Leviticus 14, God gave the Israelites detailed instructions on how to proceed when they found mold in a home. The instructions included scraping walls and removing affected stones, then tearing down the house if the mold continued to spread. The instruction wasn’t to expect or pray for protection from the toxin. The instruction was to go to great lengths to avoid it.
7. We are called not just to care for our own bodies, but to care for others, as well. No one can process an unlimited amount of toxic material, but there are differences, due to age, size, genetics, nutritional status, and other factors that affect how efficiently any given body can detoxify any given chemical. A product that doesn’t produce obvious symptoms in one person can cause another great suffering. Avoiding toxins is not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of those who share the air. Galatians 5:13-14 says, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Philippians 2:4 says, “Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
8. The use of toxic products can prevent people from hearing the gospel, participating in Christian fellowship, or using their gifts within the context of a church body. Chemicals can contaminate schools, workplaces, stores, medical buildings, and any other public place. When they contaminate a church building, however, there may be serious spiritual ramifications. When people have reactions to building, cleaning, personal care or other products used in a church building or on the bodies, clothes, and hair of other people there, they are likely to look for fellowship and spiritual food elsewhere. Likewise, toxic products used within a home limit the degree to which it can be used for hospitality and ministry.
Life is busy, and the world is full of both important and not-so-important things that claim our attention. It’s impossible to focus on everything. I do believe, however, that choosing whether or not to use toxic products is a foundational issue. Lack of health limits the extent to which we can fully address other important needs, and causing others unnecessary suffering just isn’t acceptable. We should care about this.