I am now the full-time pizza person at my local Harris Teeter. It is a promotion. I’m…enduring it?
A customer came up to my workstation today and ordered an entire chicken-pesto-on-wheat. I told him it would be about 10 or 15 minutes. He said that was fine and left to do some shopping. He returned while his pizza was still in the oven, so we started chatting. I asked him about his day and he rattled off all the reasons he was happy — makes good money, never sees his boss, isn’t set to any particular schedule, etc. The only downside was living an hour away from his job.
“Och, I’m sorry about that,” I said, because sometimes I’m Scottish. “I had to do that when I lived in DC. It’s not fun.”
He was fine with it, really. He had everything he would ever want, through the blessings and grace of God. God had done so well by him, with love and care and devotion.
Then he gave me a look, a squint and a head cock. “What church do you go to?”
I’ve found that people who would ask a complete stranger such a personal question are generally not to be trifled with. You don’t tell them the complete truth. You don’t lie either. You have to stay on neutral ground as much as you can.
“I haven’t found a church down here yet,” I said, which is technically true.
Welp. “I was so happy with my parent’s church that I don’t think any church can live up to it,” I lied.
“What did you like about it?”
“It was a church that was really focused on giving,” I said. “There were all sorts of opportunities to give and be involved charity.”
“Are you a sports fan?” he asked.
“Aren’t the Wizards from Washington?”
“Yes,” I said, “But I’m more of a Nats fan.”
Let’s be honest, I’m more of a Presidential Race fan.
“Well so anyway, imagine if you were standing outside of the stadium, and you had all the stats. But you couldn’t get into the game, because you don’t have a ticket. They wouldn’t let you in to see the game. But the owner of the team came out and said, ‘this person is my friend,’ then they would let you in to see the game. And it’s the same way with heaven. You can have all the right deeds, but if you don’t let Jesus into your heart, then you won’t get into heaven.”
Thankfully the buzzer went off and I was able to get his pizza out of the oven and into the box and get him away from me. Because that sentiment disgusts me. It’s not even about the fact that I’m wavering between agnosticism and atheism (so, like, solidly agnostic, then).
My mother raised me to believe that Jesus came to Earth to create God’s Kingdom on Earth. A place where people did good deeds for each other, were kind to their neighbor, and by following Jesus’ teachings, creating a much better place — a heaven on Earth. My absolute favorite teaching, even in my agnosticism, is Matthew 6:1-8.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
In other words, you are the only person who needs to know about your good deeds. If the reward for doing a good thing for someone else is the praise of other people, then you had an ulterior motive, didn’t you? If you expect a reward for doing something nice — well — that just doesn’t seem very nice, that’s all! If you only do something good because you expect to go to heaven because of it, maybe you should reflect a bit on your motives. Is doing a good thing just to get a reward really a good thing? Should your morality really be set on an end goal?
And the idea that the only way to go to heaven is to accept Jesus into your heart, etc. etc., really disgusts me. Heaven is an exclusive club, apparently.