Processed natural gas, consisting mainly of methane, is an oilfield byproduct that is odorless and tasteless.
Yet any user of natural gas is likely to disagree. “Odorless! No way! Natural gas smells like rotten eggs.” True. Natural gas does have a smelly ‘rotten egg’ odor—but only after it has been “odorized.”
That’s right—odorized. Before distributed to customers Federal law requires that natural gas contain an odorant of sulfur compounds. The purpose of odorizing natural gas is so people can detect its presence and locate dangerous leaks. “But why not give natural gas a pleasant odor? Why not make it smell like roses instead of rotten eggs?”
Here’s why. If natural gas had a pleasant odor we’d welcome it, we’d accept it, we’d let it be. The same is true if natural gas had no odor at all. And to leave be a leak of natural gas is very dangerous.
Odorizing Natural Gas
Unfortunately, America had to learn this the hard way. It took place on March 18, 1937. Unknown to the students and teachers of the New London School in east Texas, the pipes that fed natural gas into the heating furnace had sprung a leak. Because it had no odor the huge buildup of gas in the school’s crawlspace went undetected. No one knew the danger until, at 3:20 PM, the shop teacher turned on a sander that ignited the air-gas mixture. The school building exploded, killing 319 students and teachers—more than half of the student body and faculty!
As a result of this tragedy Texas legislature immediately passed laws requiring the odorizing of natural gas to protect the public. Never again would something so deadly be allowed to endanger people’s lives undetected.
In a similar way God has added a foul smell to sin—the transgression of God’s law. He could give sin a pleasant scent or leave it odorless. But that would leave us oblivious to the presence of a killer. So God “odorizes” sin so that it bothers our conscience and causes emotional and ultimately physical pain. Why? God does this because sin is deadly. It separates us from God and brings spiritual death. The physical and emotional misery that accompanies sin alerts us to the error of our way and brings us to repentance. “Great peace have those who love your law,” we are told in Psalm 119:165. In contrast, we read “’There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘to the wicked’” (Isa. 48:22).
Are you miserable, without peace, and hurting deeply? It could be that you’ve allowed something to come between you and your heavenly Father. It could be that your life is soured with the odors of sin.
Dear Father in heaven, please forgive my rebellion and neglect. Help me to flee from sin into Your arms. Please cleanse and heal me. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit and empower me to be the person You created me to be. Amen.