Thursday, May 15, 2008

Such Thing As a Selfless Good Deed?

I just watched the Friends TV episode where Joey insists that there's no such thing as a selfless good deed and Phoebe sets out to prove him wrong.

She calls him from a pay phone and tells him that she let a bee sting her in the park so that the bee could show off how tough he was to his friends. But then Joey lets her know that the bee probably died after stinging her. Therefore, the good deed caused death.

Later on, Joey is taking calls for a charity on PBS, and Phoebe calls in making a donation, even though she hates PBS (because she sent Sesame Street a letter when she was a kid and they never wrote back). So, Joey praises her for the donation and says that it's a selfless good deed.

But, both he and Phoebe are wrong. The only reason Phoebe made that donation was to prove Joey wrong; it had nothing to do with being good-hearted.

This Friends episode really exposes the fact that many good people do good things out of selfish ambition. I admit that I do this all the time without knowing it. It is our “fallen” human nature to do good things only if we will get something in return.

I’ve heard the argument that all good people go to heaven. But this simply can’t be true because we are all guilty of doing good things for the wrong reasons. We love so that we can be loved in return. We serve so that we can be served in return.

But the God we worship and the God who conforms us to His image is always selfless.

Being selfless in His nature, “he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt 5:45). God, out of his infinite love, blesses both those who worship Him and those who don’t.

The ultimate sign of God’s selflessness is displayed brilliantly through Jesus. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

While we live in a world full of mixed motives, we can fix our eyes on the most selfless act ever performed – a perfect God dying for an imperfect people.

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Blogger I'm Always Laughing said...

The idea of a selfless good deed comes from Immaneul Kant. While this episode of "Friends" is a great example of the human dilemma of this (i have seen it many times) the idea comes from Kant's ethical philosophy. This does pose interesting theological dilemmas as you mentioned.

5:33 PM  

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