Charity is really self-interest
Have you ever considered charity as really self-interest? There are two types of selfishness. The first is called self-centeredness and is when I give myself the pleasure of pleasing myself. The second is when I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others.
The first one is obvious, but the second one is hidden, and more dangerous, because we get to feel that we’re really great, but am I? “I give something, I get something.” I help someone by giving something, and I get something. That’s great but it isn’t charity. It’s enlightened self-interest. There is nothing wrong with that, but that is what it is.
The Gospel itself is really about self-interest. We achieve eternal life by our acts of charity. “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat,” and so on. You could say Jesus’s acts of charity were acts of ultimate self-interest, to win souls for eternal life. And that is the whole thrust and meaning of life: the achievement of self-interest by acts of charity.
“I was hungry, and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink,” and what do they reply? “When? When did we do it? We didn’t know it.” They were unconscious! But you know the pleasure you have while doing acts of charity. It’s the opposite of someone who says, “What’s so great about what I did? I did something, I got something. I had no notion I was doing anything good. My left hand had no idea what my right hand was doing.” A good is never so good as when you have no awareness that you’re doing good. You are never so good as when you have no consciousness that you’re good. “A saint is one until he or she knows it.”
Ok, but what about the soldier who falls on a grenade to save others? And what about the man who got into a truck full of dynamite and drove it into a building ? How about him? “No greater love than this.” But we don’t think so. He did it deliberately. He was terrible. But he wouldn’t think so, he thought he was going to heaven. That’s right. Just like the soldier falling on the grenade.
The only time there is an action where there is no self is when you’re awake and what you do is done through you. Your act becomes a happening. “Let it be done to me.” Maybe a mother saving her child. But why isn’t she’s saving the neighbor’s child? It’s hers. It’s the soldier dying for his country. Muslim martyrs, Hindu martyrs, Buddhist martyrs, Christian martyrs, they are brainwashed! They’ve got an idea in their heads that they must die, that death is a great thing. The process for making a Christian martyr could be exactly the same process used for producing terrorists. You can have a man go on a thirty-day retreat and come out full of love of Christ, yet without the slightest bit of self-awareness.
Ordinarily, everything we do is in our self-interest. When you do something for the love
of Christ, is that selfishness? Yes. When you’re doing something for the love of anybody,
it is in your self-interest. Some people even do things so that they won’t have to have a bad feeling. They act out of guilt. That isn’t love, it’s self-interest.
The third type of selfishness is the worst of all. It’s when you do something good so that you won’t feel bad. It doesn’t give you a good feeling to do it, instead it gives you a bad feeling to do it. You’re making loving sacrifices but you’re grumbling. You know, when you do something for someone and you really don’t want too. That’s the worst kind of charity, when you’re doing something so you won’t get a bad feeling. You don’t have the guts to say no. You want people to think you’re a good.
If everything you do comes from self-interest how does that make you feel about all your charity and all your good deeds? What happens to your pride? What happens to that good feeling you gave yourself every time you did something that you thought was so charitable?
It seems Jesus Christ had trouble with people who were really convinced they were good. Other types didn’t seem to give him much trouble at all, the ones who were openly selfish and knew it.
Selfishness seems to come out of an instinct for self-preservation, which is our deepest and first instinct. So, stop feeling bad about being selfish. Jesus was at home with sinners, because he understood that he wasn’t one bit better than they were. We differ from others only in what we do or don’t do, not in what we are. The only difference between Jesus and those others was that he was awake and they weren’t.
In the same way, if you achieved enlightenment, you would do so out of self interest. You see how stupid it is to be vain about your good deeds? The Pharisee wasn’t an evil man, he was a stupid man. He was stupid, not evil. He didn’t stop to think.
So if you stop to think, you would see that there’s nothing to be proud of after all. What does this do to your relationship with people? What are you complaining about? If someone let you down, what is there to complain about? Did you expect any better? Expect the worst,
you’re dealing with selfish people. You thought people were nice. They’re not! They’re not nice. They’re as bad as you are. They’re asleep like you and are going to seek their own self-interest, exactly like you. You’ll never be disillusioned or disappointed again. You’ll never feel let down again. Never feel rejected. Want to wake up? You want happiness? You want freedom? Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them. Otherwise you spend the whole time grappling with your wrong notions of them, with your illusions that are constantly crashing against reality.
It’s scary to know that everyone except the very rare awakened person can be expected to be selfish and to seek his or her own self-interest. There’s nothing to be disappointed about, nothing to be disillusioned about. If you had been in touch with reality all along, you would never have been disappointed. But you chose to paint people in glowing colors; you chose not to see through human beings because you chose not to see through yourself. So you’re paying the price now.