Jerry Seinfeld, Illegal Lemonade Stands and the Matthew 18 Model
The wealthy neighbors of the famous comedian failed to resolve communal conflict in a healthy way.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has spoken out against the suffocating nature of political correctness on university campuses across the nation. Now he has something else to complain about. On Tuesday, in his ritzy East Hampton neighborhood, members of his family were targeted for the heinous act of setting up a lemonade stand. From 27East.com:
Mr. Seinfeld, a part-time East Hampton resident, dealt with a real-life meddling neighbor last Tuesday afternoon, August 18, when his family’s lemonade stand on Egypt Lane in the village was shut down following complaints.
Mr. Seinfeld’s wife, Jessica, posted a photo on Instagram of Mr. Seinfeld, their son, Julian and two friends with their hands on top of their heads in surrender. An East Hampton Village Police car could clearly be seen in the back right corner of the photo.
“Lemonade dreams crushed by local neighbor, but not before raising lots of money for @loverecycled,” wrote Ms. Seinfeld in the caption. “Thanks to all of our customers and big tippers! Thanks, Xander and Jaden, for crushing it today with Julian and Jerry.”
East Hampton Village Police Chief Jerry Larsen said police received a complaint about illegally parked vehicles at the location of the lemonade stand. At the scene, an officer advised the Seinfeld family that village code does not permit lemonade stands on village property. The village prohibits all forms of peddling on its property.
The money earned from the “controversial” lemonade stand was for Mrs. Seinfeld’s “Baby Buggy” charity.
The incident is, of course, a choice example of overbearing government. But it also connects to some oft-neglected wisdom in the Gospels. Specifically, Jesus’s words in Matthew 18 are tailor-made for the lemonade stand brouhaha in Seinfield’s neighborhood:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.
Bracket off for the moment that maybe the neighbors should simply have chilled and maybe even walked over and enjoyed a glass of lemonade from the stand. For the sake of argument let’s assume for the moment that the lemonade stand really was a deeply irresponsible activity that needed to be confronted and ended. You don’t have to share my Christian theology to observe and appreciate the wisdom contained in the verses above: namely, if you have a problem with someone, talk to that person first before going behind his back.
There are obvious exceptions. If the person is a criminal or bully, maybe you go straight to bringing several people, or even law enforcement. But Jerry Seinfeld’s wife and kids probably aren’t the guns-and-baseball-bat types, I’m guessing. The wise course of action would have been to speak with them directly.
As soon as we begin to skirt the potentially uncomfortable initial confrontation, the situation tends to escalate and no one benefits. There are no teachable moments when all we use are emails and third parties to do the hard work of looking someone in the face and hashing out disagreements.
And in the case of Mr. Seinfeld’s situation, the valuable time and resources of taxpayer-funded city officials were needlessly wasted because a neighbor couldn’t be bothered to walk over and politely ask that traffic and parking considerations be kept in mind.
Everyone complains about how litigious and hands-off we are becoming as a country, but who among us is willing to take that first long walk over to his or her neighbor’s house the next time the music at their party is too loud?
Scripture has given us our marching orders. Time to take them seriously.