Thursday, December 9, 2010

Merry Christmas OR God's Blessings and Rationality

Assume every human is acting in in their own self interest, or at least what they perceive to be their self interest. I find this is a frustrating and disillusioning assumption because it allows kindness and cruelty to be motivated by identical desires and emotions. For example a person may shoplift, soldier, or parent out of a desire to feel powerful. Fathers may abuse or nurture their kids because of a desire for their kids' to not turn out like them. A person who acts in their own self-interest is said to be, rational. Assume Jesus is rational, and consider the following:

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35)

I believe there are two plausible reasons for a rational Jesus to say such a thing. One painful explanation for his claim, that it is better to give that to receive, is that Jesus was lying. Like many cult leaders Jesus could use his influence over peoples moral beliefs in order to profit from “enlightening” their point of view. It's not so far fetched; people have used Jesus' word to do exactly that for centuries. The scandal of the thing would be a lot of fun to write about, but I'm afraid no one got rich off of the Christian religion until after Christ was dead.
The other explanation I come up with is that Jesus actually believes that giving serves his interests better than receiving. If that is that case then we can assume that he would do everything in his power to give, and that scripture would record little of him receiving. The only instances of Jesus receiving anything that I can recall are times when he took meals from a host, when he took a donkey into Jerusalem, and when the “sinful” woman anointed him with perfume. That's not a lot of receiving when compared to the rest of Jesus' life. Jesus' life was characterized by constant giving, the giving of cures, the giving of food, the giving of dead relatives back to their families, of teachings, blessings, fish, of time, affection, and attention. The best example is the giving of his life on the cross.
If this is how God's son conducted himself on earth, it seems reasonable to conclude that a life of sacrifice is in fact the most profitable way a person can conduct themselves. That may sound like an evil reason for living generously; however, it is sensible that the God who determined the rules of the universe would make virtuous living beneficial if he actually wanted anyone to try it.
Now assume God is, has, and always will act in his own interest; please remember that he knows giving to be more blessed than receiving. God's motivations become clearer. God's action of creating the world, allowing the Fall, delivering Israel from slavery, giving the law of Moses, sending his son, sending his Holy Spirit, and every other divine act recorded and unrecorded is an instance of God giving. God gave Adam his breath, and he gives us his son.
God has created a universe where we, the created beings, have no concrete means of giving to our God. We have nothing that we haven't received (1 Corinthians 4:7). We cannot even work or earn our way into our God's presence or good will. We receive those things as a gift.
When God gives, he doesn't do it so that we can owe him something. God doesn't give gifts to win our favor. God doesn't give to be an example of generosity (although He is a good example). God doesn't give begrudgingly or reluctantly. God gives because it's more blessed to give than to receive.
I don't believe that our relationship to God is at all like that of a beggar or a freeloader. I believe that God wants and likes to give. I believe that God is delighted on levels we cannot comprehend when he gives his gifts to us. Our earth, breaths, longings, passions, arts, food, days, nights, hopes, and selves are his gifts to us, and each gift we receive from him blesses the Lord.
Bless the Lord by enjoying his gifts, material and immaterial, and enjoying deeply the holy blessing that it is to give. Merry freak'n Christmas .

1 comment:

  1. I'm particularly reminded of when He said to store up treasures for yourself in heaven- or Luke 16:1-9 (but feel free to read further). It's a parable that we don't get in church often (read: ever), probably because it's so focused on self interested generosity.

    PS- This is Nees- I'm just using an old blogging account I've got leftover from an English assignment.


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