I love how something secular can make you take inventory of your spiritual life. Clearly, that’s not why something secular was created, but God can certainly use it to make us think.
I’ve been binging on NBC’s “The Good Place” for the past few weeks, and while I love it for simple entertainment purposes, it’s also got me thinking about a lot.
For those who have never seen the show, here it is in a nutshell: There is no heaven and hell after you die, but instead The Good Place and The Bad Place. You get to The Good Place by having done a certain number of “good” things during your life on earth. But it’s deeper than that. You have to have done good things for the right reasons, not because you’re expecting something in return, or as they call it, “moral dessert.”
“The Good Place” has me thinking about why I do good things. Am I seriously wanting to help people, or is it all for the moral dessert, A.K.A. heaven?
A little background here, I’m a recovering people-pleaser. I believe being a people-pleaser is ingrained in some of us. I believe it has a lot to do with how we were raised, and it’s a tough cycle to break. The number one way I have been a people-pleaser is by making sure people know that I am good. I am a good person.
My first memory of feeling this way was around the time of my high school graduation in 1999. For my church’s “Graduation Sunday,” we had to fill out a form with our future plans. I would be attending Indiana Wesleyan University in the fall, and I remember thinking I’d maybe like to go on a mission trip.
That would look so great on the screen when they announce my name, I thought. This will show everyone what a good person I am.
Why was that important to me? Well, we had moved to a new city my freshman year of high school, and for three years I’d tried my best to be accepted and loved by that church. Nothing worked. I was always an outsider. I felt like that meant I wasn’t good enough. They didn’t believe I was a good person. Maybe saying I wanted to do mission work would do the trick.
Then, when I actually attended Indiana Wesleyan, some of my friends and I were a little rebellious. Because of that, we were often made to feel like bad people. We had to prove ourselves to so many people that we weren’t bad, just a little misguided.
I allowed those experiences to impact me for decades. I always felt the need to prove to people that I was a good person, even during times I didn’t believe it myself. And even when literally no one in my life was questioning it, I had to make sure people knew: I am a good person.
But set aside my 20’s and early 30’s. What about now? “The Good Place” has made me take inventory of why I do “good things.” If I’m 100% honest with myself, and with you, here are the three main reasons I do good things:
I want to help in the name of Jesus, to be more Christ-like.
I’d like to think that most of the good things I do fall into this category. I am sometimes conflicted about sharing some of the “good” things I am a part of, because I don’t want to sound boastful. However, I think that we, as Christians, do need to share the things we are doing in Christ’s name. We live in a world were Christians are often seen as hateful and judgmental, so I think it’s important to show what we’re doing because of Jesus. We love, because He loved us first.
I want to help because help is needed.
This is when I see a need that I can meet, and I do it. Not for any recognition or feedback, but simply because it’s the right thing to do, and I want to do what’s right. It’s about other people, not myself.
I want people to know I’m a good person.
Not going to lie here. I still find myself slipping into this one, especially lately, having left working for a ministry. When people would ask me about leaving a ministry and starting a job at a school, I was sure to say, “But I’m going to find somewhere to volunteer, of course.” In other words, “Don’t forget, I’m still a good person even if I’m not working at a ministry.”
I am a good person. But the truth is, as long as God knows that, and I know that, there’s no need to prove it to anyone. The really good news is that unlike “The Good Place,” there is not a certain number of “good things” we have to do in order to make it to heaven. Just turn your life over to Christ, and He will help you be more like Him. And for all the right reasons.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6