The other day in my Introduction to Microeconomics, my professor made the claim that everyone is self-interested. He explained how this is why markets work, and that through natural selection we have evolved to be selfish. This got me thinking, because he has a point. Selfishness is a huge part of the human condition, but I don’t believe that it always has been and I have faith that it won’t always will.
Sitting in class, I started to think about ways that humans have deviated from self-interest and I think the largest example of this is people’s faith in Jesus Christ. Even if you don’t believe in God, there is no contesting that the Church is by far the largest contributor to charity in the world. I brought this up to my professor, and he responded by saying that religion actually exemplifies self-interest. He said that religion can give people the largest incentive possible, heaven and the largest disincentive, hell adding that most people only kind of believe in their religion. I found this extremely interesting because it gets to the real root of Christianity, and why Jesus Christ is so important.
Yes, there are many religions that contend if you do enough “good” in this world and show up to Church, you will get a ticket into heaven. The bible tells a radically different story and sets a foundation unlike most religions. Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” You can’t only sort of believe and be saved; it is by steadfast faith that we are saved. The Christian faith is based off of authentic belief, not works. We are motivated to love others because He loved us first, not because there is some type of Quid Pro Quo with God to get into heaven. We are called to do good works because as James 2:17 states, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Furthermore, it is entirely false to say that most people only sort of believe in their religion. People are dying everyday because of their faith in Jesus. In fact, more Christians have died in the last century for their faith than all other centuries combined. My faith in God is the foundation by which I structure the rest of my life, it’s the lens through which I see everything, and it is the very reason I have a will to live. True faith in God involves a total surrender of self.
Even so, it is true that faith and serving others generally makes us feel good. In that sense, religion is self-interested, but it’s important to ask why believing in God and serving others makes us feel good. Helping others feels good because loving others is our chief calling after loving God. Mark 12:30-31 says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” When we follow Gods direction, we are fulfilled! Having faith is comforting because we are meant to be in relationship with God, this is why Jesus died on the cross. When I think about the human condition, I see such a clear void that only God can fill. Nothing can release us from the cage that sin binds us to but God. Nothing else but God’s grace can empower us to break out of our natural selfish tendencies and become the people that God intended for us to be.