Carolyn’s Online Magazine
HOW DO YOU DISPOSE OF A BIBLE?
I’m a book burner. More specifically, I’m a Bible burner.
It’s the only book I dispose of by burning.
Do I dispose of them properly?
The issue arose in a recent Dear Annie Column: Can you tell me how to dispose of an old Bible? I have asked three ministers and they all said they did not know. I haven’t heard back. —O
It seems logical to ask churches for direction in disposing of Bibles. However, they generally offer little direction and have few or no actual rules. Their major concerns are that Bibles are treated with respect and, if possible, used to serve God’s greater good.
Why is it that churches don’t have an answer to the question of disposing of used Bibles? It’s probably because there are no specific scriptural instructions on how to dispose of unneeded or old/damaged/ruined Bibles.
In surfing the I’net on the issue I discovered three schools of thought on the issue of Bible disposal.
- First, the Bible is sacred. It is the most sacred book in Christianity. Because of its holy status, many observant Christians (and even non-believers) are hesitant to dispose of it in the same way they might dispose of everyday waste.
- Second, the Bible is only a tool. While God’s Word is holy and to be honored (Psalm 138:2), the Bible itself must not be worshipped or idolized—there’s nothing sacred or hallowed in the physical materials God’s word is printed on. The Bible’s paper and ink are merely a means for God to communicate to us, to teach us about Jesus.
- Third, the Bible is valuable because it is an heirloom, sentimental, and may include a family history.
So what do you do with unneeded Bibles that are in decent condition and have no sentimental value?
They can be donated to a charity or given to a person who will use it. The I’net offered numerous suggestions for donations.
- Military persons often need a word of encouragement or solace to help them through a problem. However, a word of caution: some military sites cannot accept Bibles because if discovered they can be charged with proselytizing and endanger the site
- Some missionaries who would be happy to have even half of a Bible to share.
- Churches, which may donate the book to a needy person
- Libraries, which may loan it out or sell it in a fundraiser
- Christian homeless shelters, many of which offer prayer groups and bible study classes
- Gideons International, a Christian group dedicated to distributing the Bible worldwide free of charge.
- Another similar Bible-distributing charity, some of which send Bibles to countries where people are persecuted for reading the Bible.
- Prison Ministry, which is constantly in need of Bibles. Also they can and do supply things such as books, periodicals, and such to Chaplains for use in their libraries.
However, Bibles in decrepit condition should not be donated. What, then, do you do with Bibles that are no longer useful—torn, falling apart or otherwise badly damaged because of age, use, and damage? There is no specifically mandated means of disposing of them. The I’net offered suggestions.
- Restore the Bible, especially if it has sentimental significance. Professional book repair and restoration services are able to bring most old or damaged books back to a high level of quality—albeit at a somewhat pricey cost, which makes it impracticable for most used Bibles.
- The Bible can be stored in a safe place, where it won’t deteriorate further. It can them be an heirloom to pass down to the next generation or placed in the owners casket when s/he dies.
- O’s friend suggested she wrap it in newspaper, tie it up, and put it in the garbage. I’m including a story of one such Bible that was placed in the garbage: The Rev. Hita read the morning Scripture from a Bible which was published in the 1800s, written in the vernacular of the 1800s, the language of our grandparents. He obtained this Bible while cleaning out a school (he wasn’t always a pastor). It had been thrown in the trash, and he rescued it not realizing he’d be reading from it someday. (at the Stahlstown Flax Scutching Ceremony Sept 20, 2015, pastor of the Trinity, Pleasant Grove and Zion United Methodist churches, Ligonier and Stahlstown, PA)
- Dispose of it as you would any other book. If it’s still in fair condition, you might put it on a book donation table to benefit someone else Donate it to a thrift store—Just donate them all to Goodwill and give them the burden. They will put them on the floor and if it doesn’t sell (or if it isn’t put out to sell) it will go to recycling, to be unbound and the paper is recycled.
- When doing construction, placing a Bible in the wall or floorboards offers a pleasant memory to those who know it is there. It will also be a surprise if future work is done and it is discovered.
- And a final suggestion: Oh, for heaven’s sake, put the Bible in the recycle bin and honor Mother Earth. The respect and appreciation you feel will be in your heart.
However, then, a person decides to dispose of a Bible, is a matter of personal conviction, akin to how much the individual reveres the Bible.
O didn’t think putting her Bible in the garbage was right. After all, if we aren’t supposed to put our country’s flag in the garbage…
Veteran’s organizations and Boy Scouts collect flags and dispose of them properly. Why can’t churches offer this service?
I disposed of my Bibles by burning them in my garden so their ashes would enrich future crops. Isn’t this what the words in the Bible are supposed to do—enrich you, enrich me, by bathing us in the word of God?
A Quebec church’s Altar Guild burns old Bibles in their fireplace along with altar linens. They then put the ashes in the church garden.
Can this be the start of an answer in my challenge to churches to offer parishioners and others a way to dispose of their unneeded and worn out Bibles.