Monday, April 9, 2007

Post-Easter Thoughts: The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS

We were watching Season 5 of Friends yesterday as we were digesting our delicious Easter dinner. In the episode, The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS, Joey mentioned to Phoebe that "selfless good deeds don't exist." He mentioned that even though it was a very good deed for Phoebe to have her brother and sister-in-law's babies, it was still selfish because Phoebe was doing it because it made her feel really good (for those of you who don't understand, her sister-in-law wasn't able to have children, so they fertilized in vitro and then planted the embryo into Phoebe's uterus as a host).

Unselfish acts are very difficult to find because it is true that we are all selfish. That's part of being human. Gotta look out for number 1, and Survival of the fittest are sayings that come to my mind. No matter how hard I think about it, I can't think of a good deed that I can do that is completely void of benefiting myself in any way.

At the Easter service yesterday, Pastor Mark mentioned something that is along the same line. He talked specifically about the disciples who were eye-witnesses to Jesus after he raised from death, and how they built the church from that point on. He mentioned that it’s very unlikely that the disciples were lying about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection because they were facing persecution, even death, for their beliefs at that point in time. When most people lie about something, they do it so they can benefit themselves. Persecution and death don’t seem like great benefits if they were really lying about it.

Furthermore, if Jesus was lying about telling people that He was God and that believing Him was the only way to enter the Kingdom of God, then it would be pretty stupid because He knew full well that death by crucifixion was going to happen. Again, most people lie in order to benefit themselves in some way, but Jesus knew that if He lied then there really were no benefits at all. So why would He lie?

So is there really such thing as a selfless good deed? Well in the case of Jesus’ disciples, their benefit was the hope of living with Jesus in Heaven. Does that mean that their acts were selfish? The only selfless good deed I can think of is Jesus’ life. He never did anything selfish. Everything Jesus did was to please God the Father. And He was still crucified.

I know that the most logical thing to follow this is a debate of what altruism really is. But my point is not to focus on the debate, but instead on how we can be more like Jesus. It's true that not all good deeds are selfless, which is a problem sometimes. However, doing our best to please God is what He wants from us all of the time, and that should be our goal.