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Is It Better To Give Than Receive?

March 11, 2008

Jesus said it was better to give than to receive. There’s not many times I disagree with Jesus, but on this notion I do not necessarily agree with him.

I have the greatest admiration for Christ’s teachings. To tell the truth, upon deep inspection I’ve always found most all of what the Bible teaches to be correct, and that I was always missing something. On this issue I believe I’m missing something as well, but I’m not sure what. I will state some of the problems I’ve found with this teaching, and we’ll see what kind of solutions we come to.

To begin with, I can easily picture in my mind many instances where giving a harmful gift is not good. The person giving the harmful gift may have had the best intentions in the world, but the gift only destroys the person he gives it to. Take advice for example. It may be fulfilling for an unwise person to deal out advice, and may give them that warm fuzzy feeling of doing a good deed for the day. But if the advice was bad, and the person ends up losing all their money, ruins a relationship, etc., it would have been better off for the receiver to never have been given the advice.

Another blatant example could be giving a young boy a knife to play with. He goes running about playing, trips and falls on his own knife, and dies.

I was with my mom the other night, and they were showing a TV special on vegans. A vegan is a strict vegetarian who will not eat food derived from an animal. The special showed a couple who had come to learn the vegan ways, and their health greatly increased. So, when the young couple had their first child, they tried putting it on a vegan diet as well. The child was fed soy milk, soon became very thin, and died. The couple was taken to court, and now they are both in prison for negligence toward the child.

There’s no doubt in my mind that in all these instances what was given was intended to be a gift. All these people had good intentions, but in life intentions do not matter. Stupidity leads to bad consequences, end of story.

Intention based morality is such a difficult issue. “Oh he meant well.” I once heard a guy from church saying, “God cares most about the heart.” He’s a guy who’s always causing everyone trouble. This seems to me to be escapism from responsibility. With me, I never get involved in something before I understand what I’m getting into beforehand. I’m not going to have a child without first studying what all will be involved in properly raising the child. This includes nutrition, safety precautions, etc. I also don’t give advice in areas where I’m not knowledgeable, and always make sure the advice I give is in areas I know what I’m talking about.

Then again, I don’t want to get on that high horse saying I do no wrong. The full consequences of my own mindset is to demand perfection from everyone. In fact, the Bible seems to me to go from one extreme to the other. The Old Testament Jehovah was a no-nonsense God. He gave laws on how he wanted his people to live. They broke the law, and immediate retribution happened. People were swallowed by the Earth. Poisonious vipers and plagues came out of woods and killed the Hebrews.

Then later in the New Testament we find supposedly the same God, Jesus, who was (and still is) a meek, pacifist. Jesus taught not to judge others, to always forgive. The meek will inherit the Earth. Pray for those that despitefully use you, etc.

The Bible goes from no-nonsense, demanding perfection, to complete lax, only caring about your intentions, and pure forgiveness if you only ask. Are either of these mindsets good to hold?

I think there’s some subtle distinctions that need to be made here. First off, every action we do has a set of corresponding consequences, whether you’re knowledgable of the consequences or not. The Old Testament’s concept of demanding perfection if we want to live a quality life is definitely understandable.

Jesus’ teachings are equally powerful, but they are almost in a different plane of existence entirely. In fact, they seem to disregard this existence as petty and not worth fighting for. Jesus’ teachings will not neccessarily bring forth the best physical existence to a person, or the society as a whole. If everytime we were attacked by terrorists and criminals we simply turned the other cheek, the dumb and evil people in the world would end up ruling us all.

But if Jesus’ teachings are taken to be mental, psychological concepts, I find no flaw in them at all. If a person wants happiness, and peace of mind, you can’t harbor any hatred for anyone. When I was on my walk today, I was thinking on this concept, and remembered this chemical my Dad would spray on the windshield of the car before we would go on vacation. It filled the small holes of the glass, and lubricated the glass, to where the rain hitting the window would just roll off. It was an amazing thing to watch when the rain would be pouring down as we drove down the inter-state at 70 mph, yet it all flew off the window, with no need of using the windshield wipers.

Jesus’ teachings will give you mental clarity, and leave you in control of your mind. Just like in the car example, they will keep the rain from clouding your vision while you’re driving, but they will not keep you from driving off the road into a tree and killing yourself. Only knowledge and skill in life will do that.

Jesus’ teachings are coherent though. If when Christians die, they become one with God, and take on the divine nature of the creator, physical existence will indeed be petty to them. If they are killed in this life by criminals or terrorists why does it matter? Who cares what happens to their worthless Earth body, or even the rest of this Earth? With this in mind it’s easy to see the meaning of Christian contentment, and not worrying about the things of this world. Why would you even care? If you will soon be given all knowledge, and the ability to create just by thinking whatever you want, my goodness, what are you worried about?

The only thing that seemed to worry Jesus before going to the cross was the fact that he was going to experience a great deal of pain when being whipped and nailed to the cross. In the garden of Getsemane, the night before the Passion, when Jesus with his prophetic and foreseeing abilities was able foresee this pain, his Earth-body seemed to be filled with fearful emotions. His physical body quivered with fear knowing that great pain was about to happen, similar to how a person will cringe before being punched in the face when a fist is coming at them, though the fist may not even touch them. But he valued his divine plan more than his Earthly existence, and he followed through based on what the higher powers told him to do.

True Christian faith is beautiful mentally, but it creates placid, care-free human beings who neglect the physical world. It’s somewhat strange to think that Jesus could easily have stopped all these people. He could have restrained them, told everybody all that was going on, and taught them new teachings which could have fixed the situation.

Freud oftentimes talks about people who have unconscious desires to die, how they will be put in a situation like this and will not resist you killing them. Sometimes these people will even commit ‘accidental’ sucicide. I heard a story about a man who walked in front of a car out of nowhere. He was known to have psychological things he was going through. Other times people seem to inflict injury upon themselves for retribution sake, due to unconscious pains of life. There are many clinical cases of this nature. This could well have happened with Jesus. He doesn’t want to live with us, but why? How many more teachings could he have given us? How much knowledge could he have shared of science and other things, which could have fixed the world’s problems? He could have written textbooks on every intricacy of the mind, and gave us unfathomable knowledge. Instead he dismisses the human race and all existence as petty, and leaves in a strangely glorified suicide.

Jesus is like a video game programmer, who has made a giant online video game. Billions of players are playing. He’s made this video game a long long long time ago. The game’s so old, nobody can keep track of when it first came into being. He made it, placed the players in it, and said, “Well, I’ll see you guys later.” He takes off for a while (who knows how long), and then he comes back at some random time wondering how things are going. He logs in, and gasps at what’s going on. A few “clever” players have taken advantage of all the rest, and are screwing up the gameplay for the others. They’ve extorted the game’s currency, they’re using their powers and control over the game’s laws to keep the others from doing what they want, etc. Then, instead of wanting to fix his first game he made, and provide updates, he instead offers some sort of free pass to another better video game he’s made, where this kind of playing style is forbidden.

I’m not here to say what’s good or bad, I’m only saying the more you adhere to Jesus’ teachings, and the more you think on heaven (a place which God has cured all the problems we now face), and being with God (a lover which can love you in ways no one else can), you’ll only want suicide. You’ll cling to that free pass, which can only be used at death, and clench it with your fist day after day. Christianity cannot coexist without the doctrine of hell. Hell is Christianity’s anti-suicide medicine. Christians would all like to take a gun to their head and kill themselves, if only they could. Who in their right mind would want to live here, when they could take a bullet to the head and be in perfect paradise within a few seconds?

No Christian would ever admit to this. In fact, you’ll find this deep dynamic repressed within them. You’ll meet against it with violent resistance. How could they ever enterain rejecting anything the creator had imposed on them? They would never do such a thing! He’s their lover! Mosquitos, disease, and starvation — we strangely deserve this due to our sin. But I wonder how much they really love him. I really do. He seems to me to be an evil parent, and they the unfortunate child. They do not yet have the means to independence, so they are unable escape the insane reality which is their parent’s home.

The jury abhorred the couple who fed their baby soy milk, and it starved. They got life in prison, and even when they had good intentions, and didn’t know better. I don’t doubt, from a statistical probability, that a portion of that jury were Christians. How much more could the omnipotent, omniscient being who oversees billions of people starving and struggling over the past thousands of years be blamed for this mess? Mankind didn’t create earthquakes, nor tornados, nor hurricanes. We didn’t make poisonous spiders nor radiation from the sun, and skin cancer. These were forseen and created by the divine God. Supposedly anyways.

I think Christians have ambivalent emotions toward their conception of God. They both love him, yet hate him as well. Sin is their mitigating factor, which makes it all bearable, though deep down, they know sin isn’t enough to justify everything going on. A lot of the struggles in life are not our fault.

This isn’t a joke either. My Uncle Layton is dead today because he gave up on life. He was an alcoholic who had screwed up his life by riotous living and bad decisions. Instead of fighting and believing that he could rise again to a good life, he kept talking about “going home”. He didn’t want to live in my grandparents garage anymore. Fear of hell kept him alive, but living for fear will only keep you alive so long. Such fears only bring hell to you day by day, until you let go of the fears. Unconsciously I’m sure he was trying to over-dose on those pain-pills he was taking, hoping he’d die and wake up in heaven.

If Jesus’ mindset is one of giving, then his gifts are certainly not anything physical. He could have created a world where man does not suffer, and when he was down here, he could’ve gave us knowledge and fixed all physical problems. As I said before, he doesn’t value these things though. It seems he views this physical life as we humans view a crumb which has fallen from our dinner table, when there’s a huge splendorous spread on the table. He wants us to look upwards to bigger and better things. We seem to look quite pathetic in his eyes, when we’re fighting over such petty things. In a certain sense, I certainly agree with him.

In one sense he offers great things, but many people are sceptical that all he’s offering is suicide, and the only way mankind is going to rise to new levels is through knowledge. We’re going to have to keep progressing science and technology, and rid this world of these problems ourselves. It’s an arduous process, and never seems to move quickly enough, but it has been moving in the right direction, or at least, most of us seem pleased with the results.

With that thought we’re slightly getting off track. We’ll quickly summarize that Jesus seems to believe in giving mental peace, and a free pass to a new better world, but does not value this world at all. He seems to give us knowledge of badness, so that we can compare and know that he’s good. He seems to be more concerned with giving us this knowledge of badness, to glorify himself, moreso than the pain and suffering we go through. To be truthful though, I think this is all bad basis. I only brought this up to bring thoughts of whether or not Jesus adheres to his own teachings or not, and if so, in what sense, and what does he value?

Also we seen that giving bad gifts to people is not a good thing, at least if in our conception of ‘good’ we consider the consequences of our actions. Let’s consider more problems involved with the notion of whether it’s better to give than to receive.

Well I don’t want to dwell on this next notion for long, but the opposite problem could be examined as well. If an evil man is deceived into doing something good, even though he had evil motives while doing it, is it bad? If we judge the good and the bad by the consequences that happen based on the decisions, then no, most certainly not. What is bad in this case is the fact that the person’s hateful decisions and derision toward others, and self-centeredness, which causes the evil motives, are causing him mental pain and anguish. He’s only hurting himself by thinking this way, and will not be happy, or at least, not as happy as he could be.

I myself do not make a distinction between the intentions (mental motives) and decisions (physical actions of the body). There’s no difference between them, as they’re both decisions of changing your body. One changes subtle states of your brain, and the other moves the body, through sending electrical waves through portions of your brain. Both seem to be subtle energy manipulation of the brain.

Intentions have psychological consequences, which mainly amount to chemical and other brain configurations which are either pleasant or unpleasant to the person. Actions done in the body are oftentimes held in distinction from intentions because they produce more easily visible results.

What are the consequences of intentions? Generally speaking, people with good intentions toward others seem to be more emotionally happy than those who harbor ill will toward everybody. Bad intentions are, generally speaking, most harmful to the person having them, while bad knowledge and other bad decisions, are bad on others. Though, bad intentions are oftentimes precursors to bad decisions to harm others, if they’re not controlled. It must be stated that some people can be intelligent and not harm others, but have condescending attitudes in their hearts which make them unhappy themselves. When it comes to the intelligent with condescending mindsets toward others, their problem is more so apathy toward the suffering the foolish impose on themselves, than the direct threat that they themselves would injure others. This really is a defensive mindset, because they try to help, yet people do not want their help, and this nasty suffering they keep enduring had to end. Then then say, “I can only control my own life. I wish them well, but cannot do anything to help them, until they want my help”. Of course, they also do very little to market this help, and I really can’t blame them. There comes the problem of where your time best spent, changing diapers, or progressing the sciences and technology, and the other issues which need figured out? Others have already gave solutions to their oftentimes petty martial and family issues, their bad financial decisions, and poor nutritional diets. There’s mass genocide in Darfur, sweat shops in Taiwan, and potential threat of extremists with nuclear and biological weapons to ponder on. Why are we worried with whether or not some woman isn’t sexually satisfied in her relationship, or the obstinate ten year old son who won’t listen to either of his parents now due to the recent divorce and other poor reinforcements? Life’s important political and social issues make nice rationalized divergences from helping the less fortunate with their affairs. Unfortunately if each individual family of a nation is in chaos, then the nation is in chaos. Leaders always lead those who aren’t strong enough to do it by themselves. Why else would they need led? Leaders aren’t grand people to deliver rhetorical speeches, and hype up people’s emotions. Their real duties lie in serving those following them, and leading them to a higher plane. You can’t really lead until you learn to love those who don’t have everything together. The condescending intellectual’s aspirations are in vain, and are really just empty push-offs to others to do the work of fixing things.

Intentions can be seperated from normal actions of the body for practical purposes, but in reality, they’re really both subject to the same principle of ‘consequences of decisions’, with each decision creating certain results. Intentions are themselves decisions. Decisions are made by a person’s free will, and each decision has consequences. Whether actions on a larger bodily scale, or changes in how you think within the mind, each create a certain world. The only difference is that intentional type decisions seem to more closely influence your direct emotional life and feelings, whereas bodily action decisions are more easily seen by others. Practically speaking, intentions are only known to others through word of mouth. There will probably come a day when our intentions and other subtle mental life can be detected by brain wave analyzer machines, though that is not possible at this time. I suppose there’s Freudian slips and body language, but for the most part, they have to tell you what they’re thinking.

So when I hear a person saying, “Oh, I had good intentions. I didn’t mean for this to happen.”, I begin to think, “That’s good for your mental health. You will be happier if you have good intentions when you do things. But life is not all about you. Your actions hurt others.” The man I hear at church who always speaks that he has good intentions even when he does things to hurt others, is also the most selfish man I know. The two line up in perfect unison.

I also went into this apparent digression to say that the major distinction Christians tend to draw between the Old Testament and the New Testament, to me doesn’t exist. They talk about the law and demanding perfection, versus forgiving others and having good intentions (a “pure heart”). In reality, the two have to both come together to live a successful life. You have to have love and possess knowledge to live successfully. It seems the doctrine I’d advocate would be a ‘Mid-Testament’, which successfully fuses these two extremes together. You have to have a good “heart”, as well as intelligence.

This would normally bring in a big discussion on the nature of penal systems and reform, but we’ll avoid that in order to stay on topic. These things are all so tightly intertwined, it takes a long time to untangle them, and present them clearly in isolation. Really they are like a web, all connected.

The next problem is the fact that what if everybody refused to receive, but would only give? Christians oftentimes all want to be the servants of all, but what if their dream of converting the world came true? If “living is giving” as a lot of them say, then there’d be nobody to give to. It presupposes that there’s someone in need and willing to take what you offer.

I have posed this dilemma before, in the form of my thought experiment – the “altrustic brothers”. Two completely selfless individuals, who embody pure altruism, exist together in a house in an alternate reality, where they are the only two people who exist. The conversation begins,

“Brother, what would you like to do?”
“What I want is of no consequence. What do you like to do, brother?”
“No, no no. Don’t worry about me, brother, what would you like to do?”
“Oh brother, it doesn’t matter. I’ll do whatever you want to do.”

And so the conversation continues, ad infinitum, with nothing happening ever.

There’s some interesting consequences to altruism. First off, you can never be a leader of any kind being a complete altruist. Leaders oftentimes have to make decisions, and if you’re always looking to someone else to make the decision on what to do, then you’ll be unable to lead.

Christians can only get around this doctrine by claiming communcation from God, who tells them what to do. The problem with this is, that I’ve looked into this, and I feel quite certain the only thing talking to them is their own imaginations.

Also, if God created mankind for fellowship (as they so oftentimes say), then why would God want you to be a robot? If God wants you to utilize your free-will, you have to selfishly pursue something you want out of life. Not everyone can serve, there has to be someone who is served.

I somehow try to envision such a world, where all are servants. One man looks at a crowd and says, “Everyone. Here goes, I’m going to be the selfish one, and you all will serve me!” Everyone cries out, “Awwww. No John, not you. Let it be someone else? Who could bare the misery of the one getting what he wants?” Then he replies to the sobbing crowd, “No, this must be the way it is to be. I will selflessly become selfish, so that you may all selflessly serve me!” And so this man becomes their king, makes all their decisions, but because he is selfish, he becomes very unhappy.

Pure altruism creates passive sheep, to mold and lead wherever you want them to go. I’m of the opinion the world needs more leaders, not sheep. Leaders who can envision a better world and lead ther fellow men to making it a reality.

I oftentimes hear people thinking that if the world just had more love, everything would be better. It wouldn’t. I could see a plague breaking out over the people, and all of them coming together, and holding hands as one. They’ll all die, in horrid sickness and pain. Only intelligent men who develop their minds and make a cure will fix the problem. The value of love of others is its motivating factor toward beneficial action, but love without intelligence is empty.

This marks a good place to summarize. Whether it is better to give than to receive seems to be heavily dependent on what’s given and what’s being received. To give a harmful gift doesn’t seem good. Also, if a man is starving and in need of medical attention or he will die, it seems better to receive. But maybe I’m just being pedantic and overly critical. Intentions seem to mostly deal with the emotional life of a person, yet are still decisions nonetheless. Lastly I find the concept of advocating it’s always better to give than to receive contradictory in premiss. You can only give what you have, and if you do not initially receive, or at least pursue something you want out of life out of pure desire (selishness), how can you ever give? You’ll never have anything to give. Also to give, someone has to receive. Jesus seems to not value any sort of possessions or anything of this physical existence. This leads to being a content, passive stagnant sheep, praying for suicide, and hoping you die quickly and make it to the better world. If it’s true, then getting caught up in these things certainly is a waste of all our time. I can only say the more seriously you believe this, the more you will want to escape this world and move on to the next. I think you’ll find it difficult to find motivation to want to improve this world, or give this world any serious consideration and value, when you believe there’s already a perfect world waiting on the other side. I also think to pursue a relationship with God, due to his perfection, will ultimately lead to anti-social tendencies. Who could compete with this perfect being? If you could truly spend time with this perfect being, being around others much less perfect would certainly be more of a nuisance than a joy.

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