How can you tell if someone is a ‘good’ person or a ‘bad’ person? Well one approach currently making the rounds on the internet is called the Shopping Cart Theory. While kind of silly it represents a certain kind of thinking in our world. It goes like this:
The shopping cart is the ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing. To return the shopping cart is an easy, convenient task and one which we all recognise is the correct, appropriate thing to do. To return a shopping cart is objectively right. There are no situations other than dire emergencies in which a person is not able to return their cart. Simultaneously, it is not illegal to abandon your shopping cart. Therefore the shopping cart presents itself as the apex example of whether a person will do what is right without being forced to do it. No one will punish you for not returning the shopping cart, no one will fine you or kill you for not returning the shopping cart, you gain nothing for returning the shopping cart. You must return the shopping cart out of the goodness of your own heart. You must return the shopping cart because it is the right thing to do. Because it is correct. A person who is unable to do this is no better than an animal, an absolute savage who can only be made to do what is right by threatening them with law and the force that stands behind it. The shopping cart is what determines whether a person is a good or bad member of society.
Wow, where do we start with that? While this may be a new approach the idea behind it is as old as humanity. It assumes our moral ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ can somehow be quantified and measured by behaviour. However, we know that this ultimately falls short about telling us the truth. A serial killer may be a very responsible person and always return the shopping cart.
We like to have a measurement because it gives us a sense of comfort, of knowing whether or not we are on the right track. So it’s helpful to remember that the Christian belief about being a morally good person is found in Christ alone. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So here’s the takeaway – be a decent member of society and return your shopping cart. That’s just good practice. But just remember that doesn’t make you a ‘good’ person, we are all relying on God’s gift for that qualification.
P.S. I return my cart to get the deposit back.