The Theory of Responsibility

By: Zach Collins

Will you do an experiment with me, for just a moment? In this experiment, I ask you to be completely honest with yourself. Literally, no one will ever know the answer you provide. 

Are you ready? 

Let me supplant a setting in your mind. You arrive at the grocery store, grab a shopping cart, and aisle by aisle you mark red lines through each item that you have put on your grocery list. You pay for your groceries, head to your vehicle, and load the groceries into your vehicle. 

Now, here’s the real question: Do you return your shopping cart to the “Shopping Cart Corral?” By the way, yes that is a real thing. I worked at a grocery store. Or do you hesitate and leave your shopping cart in your parking spot? Whatever your choice, it was between you and this article. Recently, I ran across a new theory called, “The Shopping Cart Theory”, which claims to be at the center of a moral question for the ages, “Am I a good or bad person?” In some ways, many have employed “The Shopping Cart Theory” as a new litmus test for citizenship, that is, whether someone is a good or bad citizen. That’s interesting

Just to sum up this theory, so you will get the gist of this article and the spiritual application from this illustration, returning the shopping cart is an easy and convenient task. Outside of a dire emergency, there are no circumstances that would prevent you from returning your shopping cart to its designated place. You will not be punished, threatened, fined, or confined for not returning the shopping cart. At the end of the day, you receive nothing and gain nothing for returning the cart. Simply, it is universally accepted as the right thing to do. On the other hand, not returning the shopping cart is lazy and inconvenient. You have chosen to forgo a simple responsibility and, instead, pass that responsibility onto others. 

For the record, I do not believe returning the shopping cart is a litmus test for citizenship. Nor do I believe those who return the shopping cart hold higher moral ground than those who do not return the shopping cart. However, at the core of this assertion, it is a theory of responsibility and, asks, what will you do with your responsibilities?

Can we make spiritual application from this “theory?” For this article, let us imagine that the shopping cart is the embodiment of the responsibilities given to you by God the Father. Will you return those blessings for His glory? Or will you use them only for your glory? I believe this question could speak volumes of introspection about our spiritual situation.  

1.     If we do not return “the shopping cart”, it shows that we are too lazy to properly handle God’s blessings and use them for His benefit. We are akin to the “one talent man”, who was accused by Jesus of being a wicked and lazy servant (c.f., Matthew 25:26). 

2.     If we do not return “the shopping cart”, as stewards of God’s blessings, it shows that we would rather pass on our spiritual responsibilities to other Christians. When Jesus comes again, we must be found faithful in our stewardship (c.f., 1 Corinthians 4:1-2). 

3.     If we do not return “the shopping cart”, it shows that we are unaware and oblivious to the influence our sins can have on other Christians. Our sin does not just affect the soul within, it affects all who have been touched by our lives (c.f., Mark 9:42).  

It’s a simple theory about spiritual responsibilities. At the end of the day, just return the shopping cart. Other Christians are watching and following your example. 

August 16th, 2023