Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sin or not sin? The "free" condiment

Okay, we settled the last question, and here's another situation:

I go to the little lunch place in my office building. I buy a salad and a bottle of water (okay, okay, I buy a package of Oreos, too). On my way out, I grab a plastic fork and a napkin which I need to eat the salad. BUT they have bins of mayo and ketchup and taco sauce, which I definitely don't need but I wouldn't mind having one or more of each for my office drawer for another meal.

Is taking them wrong?

To those of you to whom this seems like scrupulosity, I answer that I don't think it is. It's more "boundary-drawing." If taking a couple of folders from work to put my recipes in at home is stealing, which it is, then perhaps taking packages of condiments I don't need is also stealing. It's a matter of where what *I* want vs. what I *need* becomes my own self-definition of sin.

Maybe a package of mayo seems absurdly small to think about, but it multiplies pretty fast, and soon we're justifying keeping too much change returned to us at the grocery store or deliberately hiding a small mistake in our work instead of simply fixing it, admitting it, taking the tiny humiliation and moving on.

If I believe that Jesus Christ is the Ruler of EVERY aspect of my life, that goes for EVERYTHING, sex and ethics and charity and equitable treatment of others' businesses.



DimBulb said...

Imagine how much cheaper a happy meal would be if people stopped swiping the "free" condiments to put in their glove compartments "just in case"?
Here is an interesting question (or maybe not) are the fast food joints who put out those condiments guilty of enticing people to sin? I'm sure they know that people walk out of their joints with handfulls of the stuff.

Therese Z said...

There's a certain helpless hospitality in putting out "free" stuff. I am reminded of it when I think of the food we all prepare and put out, meant to be snacks, for lectures we have at church, and people make meals of it. We can't stop them, it's unkind to glare at them, we can only smile and hope they were actually hungry and not just pigs.

TS said...

I'd say if you thought you would be using it for their meals in the future then it would be okay.

Therese Z said...

for THEIR meals, that's good.

Deborah said...

I'd say hold the mayo if it wasn't going to be used for food from the place in question. But then, if you're going to be there anyway for that future food, you'd want to take fresh mayo. Those things do have expiry dates. I happened to notice one on ketchup that I had just picked up at Harvey's drive-through. The cafeteria at my office has neatly eliminated the temptation: all condiments are kept in squeeze bottles.
P.S. I like this sin or not sin concept. The paper I work for used to have an ethics column wherein a business dilemma was described each week, and the best answers were published the next week along with the next ethical conundrum. It was amazing how most readers opted for ethical response, but in so many different ways so that the least harm was done. It gave me great faith in humanity's ability to discern between right and wrong, if not our actual choices between them.



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