I somehow contrived to justify theft in the name of "being a good steward of the earth." Good food or any useful product should not end up in a land fill. And so I counted it almost a duty to redeem these things from the trash.
Belinda and I went adventuring on Saturday, and ended up with a loot of toys from the dumpster at the local Goodwill. We subsequently cleaned them and dropped them off for friends who are expecting their first child. It was only Belinda's second dumpster diving experience (the first was for food), and her conscience got the best of us.
Aside: it's remarkable how much we justify our sin in our own minds. We always find some justification, else we would either cease to sin at all or drive ourselves mad. Adding a second conscience, a second mouth that speaks from a heart full of the Holy Spirit, makes justifying sin all the more difficult. That's why accountability is so key to our growth and discipleship. Romance forces accountability in some ways that are different than other close relationships. As you open up your hearts to one another and experience life in increasingly closer relationship the darknesses of those individual hearts are exposed, particularly when they are in different places for each of you. I think God designed marriage as the ultimate accountability relationship. I'm also confident that married people should have accountability partners outside of their spouses (and of the same sex), but that's an aside to an aside.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Belinda's conscience was bothering her about the legality of our deeds.
And so I began to seriously ponder the way I had been acting. God clearly commands us to obey our authorities, specifically in light of his sovereignty over their reign (Rom. 13:1-5, Prov. 21:1). God does at times require disobedience to the law, when the law of the government contradicts the law or authority of God (Josh. 2, Acts 4:18-20).
So, perhaps playing robinhood for the environment can be justified by saying that God has commanded us to be stewards of the Earth, and allowing good things to take up space in landfills is direct disobedience. But the more I think about it, the weaker that argument seems. Taking a few toys from a dumpster ever few weeks is not really changing the size of our landfills. It seems more like petty theft with a "stick-it-to-the-man" flair. As a well educated adult with some power over words, I think if my real concern was for providing those in need with useful things that others had discarded, I would write letters or petitions to the management of the stores which are filling landfills, perhaps proposing alternatives for edible or reusable products other than simply creating more garbage. It would take more work and probably be a lot less fun, which I think is very telling in terms of my true motivations.
So, if I discover that dumpster diving is truly illegal as I have supposed, I think I may have to stop. If anyone would like to convince me otherwise, I would be grateful.
This is where things get interesting. I decided to do a bit of research into the subject, and this is one of the first articles I found. While I don't agree with the motivation of the authors, the second certainly has a funny last name. Here's the relevant excerpt:
IS IT LEGAL?Dumpster diving is the deliberate art of gleaning perfectly usable items from commercial and residential dumpsters. It is legal in most areas as long as there are no signs posted against trespassing. To be sure, check your city ordinances, or just call the police department.
I have subsequently sent form emails to the local governing authorities, and await a response. Perhaps I should have waited to post this until I hear back, but I wanted to get this out of my fingers. And a reply will give me an excuse to post again. You know, keeping up the average and all that (currently 1.7 posts/day for the last 30 days).