Do Christians do good out of selfish motives?
If people came from pond scum and nothing matters after you die, then why would anyone keep his or her behavior within morally acceptable ranges (let alone biblical standards)? Why not steal, why not lie, why not murder your fellow students, why not put falsehoods in museums—especially if it benefits you in some way? The current generation put this together and that is why they arent afraid to put on pro-evolution shirts with Natural Selection written on them and kill their fellow students.
Wow! That is so disturbing! Is this how Christians think? Is their only motivation to do good to see their reward in heaven? As a secular humanist, I don’t think there’s a heaven or a hell. And so, I have to do good deeds because I’m a good person. So what if I came from single-celled organisms? That doesn’t change that I am a human NOW, and that people are suffering NOW. While I don’t think there’s a heaven waiting for me, I still do good things in the hope of alleviating suffering in some, however minute, way.
If the Christian faith preaches that heaven is the only reason to do anything for anyone, well, isn’t that just a little selfish? It almost makes me hope there’s a hell waiting for you.
–A.D., Apple Valley, Minnesota
Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis. The paragraph you quoted came from one my feedbacks, “A false version of our history”?
To answer your question, let’s briefly examine a few times in history:
The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5, NIV)
Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD. (Genesis 13:13, NASB)
In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6, NASB)
Today’s culture is becoming like those societies. Each of these places and times had a system of rules and regulations, but it didn’t stop their disobedience. Before the Flood, God had given commands (such as Genesis 1:28). Genesis 14:8 indicates Sodom even had a king. Pre-monarchic Israel had a system of judges in place (Moses being the first). Furthermore, in Romans 1:18–20 we are told that ever since the beginning of creation all people have had the witness of creation regarding the existence and moral nature of God. Psalm 97:6 says that the heavens declare God’s righteousness. Romans 2:14–16 tells us that all people (including those who have never seen a Bible and don’t know the laws contained in it) have the moral laws of God written in their conscience.
The rejection of God as lawgiver led to many ungodly philosophies, and “good” became an arbitrary concept—just as it has become today.
Wow! That is so disturbing! Is this how Christians think?
Actually, this is how consistent naturalistic evolutionists think, (or have thought, anyway)—see Evolution: No Morality and Mass Murderer (Dahmer) on Evolution v. Morality. I was merely extrapolating what is consistent for evolutionists to believe.
Is their only motivation to do good to see their reward in heaven?
No. Rewards in Heaven are something to look forward to, yes, but there is a different motivation, as I will explain in more detail below. And we are not doing good to earn our way to heaven; no one can do that. There is only one way to God in Heaven, and that is though Jesus Christ. Often, people have the misguided thought that good deeds are what allow someone to enter heaven. Good deeds will not save anyone. The Scriptures say:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)
Salvation is a gift and cannot be earned by doing good works:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
The very next verse tells us where good works come in—as a result of being saved, not in order to be saved.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
So, as Christians, our motivation to do good is that we love God and are thankful for the free gift of salvation through Christ. Therefore, we want to please the Lord in return.
And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. (Hebrews 13:16)
Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. (3 John 11)
Our good works are to verify that we have faith in Christ. If we claim to have faith and have no works, then do we really have faith? James 2:14–18 addresses this and refers to one who claims to have faith but has no works. James points out that such a person’s faith is useless. This doesn’t mean that works save us, but they are a reliable indication if one really has true saving faith or not.
As a secular humanist, I don’t think there’s a heaven or a hell.
What you think or believe doesn’t change reality. Heaven and Hell exist, whether you think so or not. God exists whether you believe so or not. Of course, you can choose not to believe my assertions here, too. But what if you’re wrong?
And so, I have to do good deeds because I’m a good person.
Good? What is good? How can you distinguish it from evil? On what basis do you think you are good and that your deeds are good? If there is no perfect God, then what is the source for goodness? Imperfect people? Imperfect societies? Imperfect parents? Majority rule? All of these have been shown to be fallible. Christ says:
Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. (Luke 18:19)
If you really believe there is such a thing as good (and, accordingly, bad), then you are borrowing this from the Bible. This means you are not a full secular humanist, but instead, a compromised one. You are taking aspects of Christianity and secular humanism and mixing the two religions into one. In your religion you really have no basis for saying anything is good or bad: something just is. Secular humanists can only make moral judgments by stealing from another source: Christianity and the moral laws that God put in our consciences.
God makes it clear what is good in the Ten Commandments. If you really think you are good, then please take this test by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, friends of AiG: Are you a good person?
So what if I came from single-celled organisms? That doesn’t change that I am a human NOW,
Yes, but in your religion, you are nothing but a biological organism, just like a single-celled life-form. So why do you give humanity a higher status in your philosophy, if both are really no different in the grand scheme of things—both just the product of purposeless, blind, random evolution? People readily kill infectious bacteria and annoying mosquitoes. According to your beliefs, what would be wrong with killing off humans, since bacteria, mosquitoes and people are all merely living things that have no purpose and no eternal destiny?
and that people are suffering NOW.
Yes, there is pain and suffering in the world. The question is, do you know why there is pain and suffering?
Most non-Christians (and many Christians who haven’t thought through biblical teaching on this subject very carefully) have a false view that God made the world like this. But He didn’t. He made it perfect, without any death or suffering for people or animals (Genesis 1:31, Deuteronomy 32:4). It was due to sin (disobedience to God) that the world was cursed. I encourage you to read Genesis 3 to understand this Curse.
But at that same time, God gave the first promise of the Messiah who would save us.
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. (Genesis 3:15)
Many more prophecies in the Old Testament reveal that this seed of a woman (an indication of virgin birth) was Christ, who came and conquered death and sin so that we can be restored to a right relationship with our Creator and have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16–18)
Many non-Christians don’t understand this and falsely say that God created the world as we see today, full of death and suffering, and therefore they wouldn’t want to serve or follow a God like that. However, it was man’s actions that resulted in a world like this. That said, those who have come to know Christ as Lord and Savior do have something to look forward to: someday there will be no more curse (Revelation 22:3) and no more pain, suffering, or death (Revelation 21:4).
While I don’t think there’s a heaven waiting for me, I still do good things in the hope of alleviating suffering in some, however minute, way.
Heaven is waiting, but without Christ, no one can make it. And it pains me to have to say that Hell is waiting for those who continue in rebellion against their Creator and who reject His gracious gift of a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t say this to be spiteful; it is simply the sobering truth. If you really despise suffering and pain—not just for you but for your family and friends and everyone else—then I urge you to receive Christ, and then share the good news! This doesn’t make all suffering go away in this life, as sin still has consequences. But knowing Christ does make a wonderful difference in the life of every believer, just as He promised:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
According to Jesus Christ, who is God, who has been through death and came back again:
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)
Mankind has already been sentenced (John 3:18). The wrath of God will be eternal suffering:
These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)
This is why Christ came to save us—out of His love for us. If you really want to be free from suffering for all eternity, then I urge you to repent of your sins and trust in Christ so that you may share in eternal life with Christ.
If the Christian faith preaches that heaven is the only reason to do anything for anyone, well, isn’t that just a little selfish?
As I mentioned before, heaven is not the reason to do good; we do good because we love God and are thankful for all His goodness and the mercy He has showed us. And we also love others, such as you, and want others to share in this good news and receive Christ and live eternally without pain and suffering.
It almost makes me hope there’s a hell waiting for you.
Although Hell is a real punishment of being separated from God, the only source of good, I will not be there because Jesus is my Savior. So, the sting of death is not my concern anymore. Only in Christ will you escape it. I want to encourage you to consider Christ—you can start by reading the Good News.
Bodie Hodge, AiG–USA