There is never a bad time to instruct someone in Biblical law if you are given the chance to do so. Moreover, your listeners do not have to know the worldview behind your comments. I had one such encounter today at Whole Foods.
As I waited in line, the checker, bagger, and customer ahead of me were discussing the actions of the son of the manager of a famous punk rock band (whose name meant nothing to me).* He announced that he intended to burn his deceased parents’ paraphernalia and memorabilia in protest to Britain’s commercialization of punk rock. It seems that what was cutting edge, radical forty years ago has become mainstream today and officially celebrated. Junior wanted no part of it, because he felt it distorted what his father stood for. So, with much fanfare, on Nov. 26, 2016, he made good on his promise to incinerate his father’s possessions valued at over five million pounds.
The grocery line conversation among the three included elements of shock, revulsion, and the observation (in which they all concurred) that the forty-six year old son was just a spoiled brat. All agreed that he could have sold this inheritance and donated the money to charity, or better yet, given it to a museum. In any case, all shook their heads convinced that their “what is the world coming to?” assessment was spot on.
When it was my turn to pay for my organic fruits and veggies, the checker smiled and said, “You got to hear a mouthful, didn’t you?” To which I replied, “You know, there is another take on this.” Both bagger and checker looked at me quizzically. “Well,” I asked, “this stuff belonged to him, right?” They answered in the affirmative. “I think he might have been making a principled statement with his own property. After all, if money were his motivation, he would have sold it and made a considerable amount. Instead, if he felt that the commercialization went against his father’s philosophy, he was acting based on conviction.” I then added, “Have you ever noticed that when people do ‘’radical things’ in accordance with what others believe is right, they are deemed heroes, but, if it goes against their viewpoint, the same people can be labeled ‘spoiled brats’?”
Both checker and bagger stood with their mouths open. Both nodded their heads and agreed. I restated my point, that ownership allows people to do what they wish with what belongs to them. I added, “Now here’s a story that you might find interesting. I recall years ago, reading about a woman whose husband was in the process of leaving her for another woman. She decided to teach him a spiteful lesson. She put an ad in the classified section of the newspaper, advertising his Rolls Royce for $35. Of course, no one in their right mind would consider the ad anything other than a misprint. However, one ‘clueless’ teenaged boy decided that he could afford that price and went and responded to the ad. She had the title to the car, and he left as the new owner.”
Both checker and bagger laughed and thought that was the funniest thing they had ever heard. Then, as the bagger placed my bags in the cart her facial expression changed. “I guess I see what you mean. We thought that was a really funny story, but that’s because it didn’t affect us. I guess it really all depends on what you believe and your point of view.”
I went home to put away my groceries, wondering if my audience of two realized they just had received a lesson in presuppositional thinking and the private property aspect of the eighth commandment, Thou Shalt Not Steal!