Good for the sake of goodness itself?
Does it matter more that one seeks good because seeking good is a commanded practice with the promise of happiness and future reward? Or does it matter that one seeks good for the sake of goodness itself?
The former, despite ministerial protests, amounts to “telling God what to do and the people how to behave”, as Watts wrote.
Furthermore, from a literal perspective, one would have to assume that Jesus told his Apostles that it is the divine will that they spend the rest of their lives telling everybody how to behave rather than preaching the Resurrected Lord.
The latter suggests that the human will is of itself capable of perceiving the highest good of all concerned. That such giftedness need be practiced in order to be obtained might very well be what human life is about.
The latter is a way of living with a prayer in the heart that goes something like this:
Help me to see things as you have created them; to know what you know; to be able to experience life as you intend that I experience life.
If Jesus preached a formula that formula was not invested in conformity with everyone strictly proscribed in what to think and how to feel.
It was a formula of personal seeking, asking and knocking. Whatever is found, answered or opened is what Jesus promised.
There’s nothing judgemental in any of that. There’s nothing in any of that which suggests that even a church’s approval is necessary for personal validation.
For me this word implies or seems to be directly connected to an idea of being “saved”. Being saved also seems to represent some sort of rescue from a fate worse than death and, as a conditional state, is conditionally related to obedience to a monarchical will.
This then is a tradition of God primarily as monarch more than source.
The monarch then holds sway not only in controlling the world, but in subjecting humanity to a system of reward or punishment – as if the sole desire and intent of the monarchical supernatural diety is not sourceness but rule based upon mere obedience, albeit a supposedly benevolent rule.
Thus we end up with a psychological need for extreme trust and reliance on the virtues of mercy and compassion.
It is my experience and understanding that Jesus primarily taught a God of compassion, not a monarchical God. The most clear and lucid words attributed to Jesus, even when assumed absolutely to come from the “Son of God”, or in fundamentalist assumption, “The Boss’s Son,” are not words describing and supporting the monarchical view.
Rather, they are words that emphasize human choices around issues of goodness, attitude and primarily compassion as the most desired human attribute.
The idea of salvation as one’s primary motivation tends to compel humans toward goodness and compassion by doing the right things but for the wrong reasons.
Doing good in order to win salvation – to in effect purchase post-mortal happiness insurance – makes suspect the idea that human acts of goodness and compassion are spontaneous reflections of real and sincere human concern for the welfare of others.
I have come to understand that salvation is not on the heavenly list of objectives. Rather, it is the development in each human soul of a desire for the highest good of all concerned or involved in one’s life.