Which is a better concern:
a) How well have I created benefits for myself?
b) How well have I created benefits for my community?
My father attended a homecoming reunion for his university a couple of years ago. He attended a Christian university. In the limited time his classmates had together for their reunion dinner social, one of his classmates stood up, and with good intention, she suggested everyone in the room discuss how God was working in their lives.
This kind of interaction is common in Christian social circles. But the choice of discussion topics bothered my dad. It bothered him because so many people had traveled from so many far away places, and in the limited time they had to socialize, the discussion was narrowly focused on: How is God working in your life?
My dad would have preferred if each person was given a broader option to discuss their professions and the good things they had done for their communities.
Christianity, like Islam and Judaism, is a very patriarchal religion. It focuses individuals on the quality or condition of their own soul – and whether their choices and behaviors are good enough to receive their heavenly father’s stamp of eternal approval or damnation. Even basic evangelical questions like “Have you been saved?” imply and include a concept where each person must modify their behavior to receive their male god’s green or red light, either giving them eternal benefits or torture.
The first and top priority focus for many Christians is: Are my mindset, decisions, and conduct sufficiently conformed to my heavenly father’s liking – so that I please him and receive his everlasting approval and the benefits he’s willing to give me in return for my obedience?
Christians would quickly point out that part of pleasing God is doing good works, obeying the Golden Rule (doing unto others what you’d have them do unto you), and being charitable (helpful) to others. They would suggest those are equally important focuses and not in opposition to (complimentary, going hand in hand with) seeking their God’s omniscient nod of approval.
Is it a better question to focus daily first on questions relating to: How well have I created benefits for myself?
Or is it a better question to focus daily first on questions relating to: How well have I created benefits for my community?
I think the latter is a better focus.
At some point, I figured out that whether or not I got into Heaven or Hell was not a big issue, because the outcome didn’t really matter in the big picture – whether or not I went to Heaven would not significantly positively or negatively affect others.
It was more important for me to focus on creating benefits for others. And if I spent enough time creating many benefits for others, and God still didn’t approve of me, because I didn’t take specific ideological steps, then I was pretty sure that was not a man or entity I wanted to be subservient or deferential toward.
When you go to your next school reunion, what would you rather tell people?
Would you like to tell them about how well you married, how well-liked you became, or how much money you acquired?
Or would you prefer to tell others stories about the benefits you created for many people in your communities?
Both types of questions are worth care and consideration. But if you think the latter might be more interesting and worthwhile, then you might daily ask yourself more questions related to the latter concern.
If you’d like to read more in this “What Can You Learn That Will Profit You?” post series, the first post can be found here. The next post in the series, titled “Why Pursue Education?” can be found here.
The atop this post is by Hannes Caspar. © All rights reserved by Hannes Caspar.