Good for Its Own Sake

As an agnostic, I’m not one to begin a post with a Bible quote, but there’s one that has been bugging the hell out of me la1tely, so here goes:

Matthew 6:1-4

1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.… 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Ah, yes, the “secret” good deeds seen by God and God alone. Many people name this among their favorite Bible verses, and I myself used to think it was deeply profound advice when I was younger. Most people think it means don’t do good things to impress people, but because they are good. This is not what it means at all. What it really means is make sure you’re maximizing your return on investment. The point of this verse is that God pays top dollar for good deeds. Don’t waste your time making the little people here on Earth think you’re a good person. Instead, trick the Big Cheese into thinking you’re a good person by giving Him a private good deeds lap dance in the back room.

Either way, it’s about the reward. Nowhere is the idea of doing good deeds for their own sake presented. It cynically treats good deeds as quid pro quo between you and God. He gets the good deeds in the Earthly realm that he so desperately craves and you get the VIP treatment in Heaven. It’s really no much different than when an employer (or a defendant) pays you more for signing a confidentiality agreement. The point is, if you want the real glittering prizes, you have to sign an exclusivity agreement with God.

The worst part about this concept is how self-righteous it makes people. They act like they’re not just doing it for a reward despite the fact that a reward is promised right there in the text. When I was younger I used to do a similar thing when I wanted to impress people without bragging about it. I’d fake like I wanted to be anonymous or didn’t care if people saw but put myself in a position likely to be found out or seen. In other words, pretending like you don’t care about reward in order to increase your reward.

Do Christians really think this sort of cheap trick is going to fool what they also believe to be an all-powerful, all-loving, at least 6,001 year-old being? “Oh that time I put $100 in the collection basket? You noticed that? Oh, that was nothing. The real heroes are the troops.”

Anywho, I think you guys get the idea. This whole post is one big reason I don’t care for Christianity (or most religions). If you truly believe there’s an omnipotent creature out there keeping score on how well you comport with the rigid, anachronistic, poorly-thought-out value system of some Bronze-Age desert nomads, then you’re always weighing the profits/losses of your actions rather than doing things for their own sake. Please, for the love of God, do something because you think it’s worth doing. Because you want to make the world a better, more beautiful place. Not because you’re afraid or greedy. It’s a delusion of selflessness to pad your ego and hopefully get some Heaven Bucks.

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