Thursday, June 26, 2008

Christian Writing - The Sheer Goodness of People


July 26, 2005 – a city of over 16 million came to a grinding halt, literally. A combination of high-tide and incessant rains (highest in 100 years) had people in the resilient city of Mumbai wading through waist-high water to get to their homes. Some started the journey late afternoon and had not reached home the following morning even by sunrise.


As buses and cars were stranded for hours together, it was a touching sight to see people in the area come out with bottles of water, snacks and tea for those who had last sipped or eaten something 8-10 hours back.


What brings out the kindness and goodness of some people in such situations? Is it a previous experience where they have been recipient of some stranger's goodness in similar situation? Or was it exactly the opposite that when they needed succour and help, nobody stepped forward? Either way or just by the grace of God they have cultivated within them or have been blessed with a helpful nature that goes beyond the call of duty.


We know that goodness has a multiplier effect. Like a ripple which has no identifiable end, goodness too has far reaching effect which is self-propelling and self-propagating. Badness (to do evil), to coin a term, does not have any such momentum. To spread it needs to be stoked, blown over for the ember to become a raging flame. For goodness no such external application is needed. While many of us may not be 'bad', we do suffer from something called apathy and indifference which again is a far cry from goodness as we know it, and hence, urgently needs working on. 


If one-sixth of humanity is Christian – by choice or hereditary – it is because of the goodness of one man and His heavenly Father. The man, of course, is Jesus Christ. He left the comfort and splendor of His heavenly throne, to take the form of man, do good, suffer for it unto death – and rise again in glory.


Jesus' message to us was simple. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.


Some of us are born with a silver spoon and are not in need of anybody's help for anything. Everything has been provided or will be provided for the asking. With such privilege there is nothing that you need from anyone. In turn, there is nothing that such person believes that he needs to give to anyone. This is one way to interpret – 'Do unto others as you would have them done unto you'. On the other hand there are the poor, the destitute, who have nothing to give (except love which nobody wants and prayer which nobody cares for) and hence in turn should receive nothing.


Lord Jesus tells us two stories. One, of the Widow's mite (Mark 12:42-44): "Verily, I say unto you, that this poor widow cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."


The other, less a story and more a statement, Jesus tell us in Mark 10:25 that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." Does it apply to all the rich?


In my reckoning, not to all the rich but only those who do not own possessions, but the possessions own them. They virtually carry their riches on their backs never to be too far away from it. The load on their back is bigger than the hump of the camel. A camel may still squeeze in through the eye of a needle. But, the rich in question, no way.


It is like the lorry driver stuck under the bridge because he was loaded beyond the permissible limit. He tried every means to retrieve the truck except that which would have worked for him. All he had to do was to release some air from the tires.


With the rich too they need to release some "air" from the pomposity to get through the "eye of the needle". But, can they when they want to own every bit of their wealth all the time and not share a bit with anybody else; when they are constantly concerned about either losing it or not growing it sufficiently; when they surround themselves with all that wealth can buy and more than they would ever need. To them the poor are despicable and deserve to be where they are and not worthy of even a farthing of their overwhelming wealth.  


Jesus gives us the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 a tax collector and very rich man who fits the above profile. One encounter with Jesus (story worth reading for the manner in which Zacchaeus humbles himself and sheds all inhibitions to see Jesus by climbing up a tree because of his short status) and he is completely transformed virtually giving away his vast wealth – half to the poor and four times the sum to those who he has cheated in the past. Was Zacchaeus still rich after giving away most of his wealth – indeed! Can the rich to get to heaven? Yes, if they unload their burdens while they are still on earth doing some good while they are alive.


In sum, goodness has a ripple effect with far reaching positive consequences, but "badness" needs to be stoked to keep it burning. The poor and the rich can be good with what they have. To possess wealth is good, but to have wealth possess you is bad. In God's kingdom the more you give, the more you get. You will rarely see a poor generous giver. Jesus gave up the richness of his heavenly throne for the humiliation of the cross. As followers of Jesus we need no other role model to guide our way.









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