I spent the day today putting together care packages to send to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I took the last of them to the post office, a thought occurred to me while I was standing in line: Why am I doing this?
There's no question that I like to do things for other people. I got a warm fuzzy feeling boxing up hygiene products and dry goods and magazines, knowing that someone a world away might enjoy a gift from home. I had a blast ringing the Salvation Army bell last week. I'm glad I stopped and gave my neighbor a ride the week before.
Why do I like doing things for other people? Is it because I know they'll appreciate it, or because it makes me feel good? And if it's a little bit of the latter, is that wrong?
I once saw an author on TV talking about how when we do good things for other people it causes a chemical reaction in our bodies that actually makes us feel good. Being unselfish actually does us physical good.
There's even a research project called The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, focusing on the effects of unconditional love and compassion for humanity. The researchers claim that "Participation in this love is the pinnacle of spirituality, inspiring inner peace, abiding kindness and effective action in the world."
So loving people brings me peace and passes on kindness in the world. But isn't loving so that I feel good itself a bit self serving? Or is feeling good the blessing I get from being obedient to Jesus' command to love my neighbor?
And what eternal good is passing along kindness? If my good service brings earthly benefits to the recipient - food, shelter, financial assistance, clean water - but not a spiritual connection with an eternal Savior, have I really done any good at all?