Altruism?

When I go to church, I often hear about the challenges of being Christian in professions geared solely towards generating wealth and how greed and power are great temptations in fields where profit in the end goal. When Christians often talk about work that can compromise one’s faith, high paying and prestigious jobs are high on the list. When I was in college, I was skeptical of Christians who sought to make more money for the sake of status and power and believed that they had the greatest challenges of anyone in justifying and reconciling their career choice with their faith. That was until I realized how prideful and vain service work can be when it is focused on boosting one’s morale and image.

We live in an age of social media and self promotion in the midst of great social injustice and global disparity. Today, it is easier to show others the good work you are doing and promote your status as a good person. Furthermore, because social justice work and volunteerism are trendy, it is “hip” to promote yourself as benevolent and committed to racial and economic justice. It is easy for someone like me to feel good about myself for working in a field where I can advocate for issues relating to criminal justice, because it’s the popular and trendy thing to do. The problem is that when the desire and enthusiasm for justice and service is primarily based on fulfilling a trend and establishing a status, one loses humility and secrecy, disciplines that measure one’s true intent and commitment.

Whether one “helps people” professionally and/or voluntarily, justice and service work pose unique challenges for one’s faith and morality. While the desire of material wealth and financial exploitation may not be a challenge, the lust for fame, praise, and paternalism will be. If your “do-gooder” work becomes about your own self-promotion and Christian celebrity status, you are no better than a rich man who constantly seeks for more wealth and power for his own compulsion. If your service work is focused on exploiting and demonizing those in poverty in the name of ministry, you are no different from a banker who financially exploits those who are poor. If you advocate for homelessness to collect a paycheck but refuse to acknowledge the homeless person down the street, what better are you than those who are blatant about their disdain for those in poverty? Finally, if your activism work is centered around #blacklivesmatter hashtags and attending rallies, but you continue to criminalize black people for your own safety and comfort, how committed to racial justice are you?


It’s not enough to be a Christian who dedicates your profession to helping others. Furthermore, being in that position does not make you more moral and compassionate than others. Helping professions offer their own unique challenges and temptations to following Christ. I used to think that majoring in Social Work was an example of being altruistic but then I realized that altruism is extremely difficult and uncommon, because rarely do people do things without some expectation of reward. To understand what it means to be altruistic and to serve selflessly, you have to look at the example of Christ.


Whether you are a wealthy businessperson or an underpaid social worker, you must reflect on your motives and intentions for the work you do and avoid the temptations that will make you more prideful and less humble. Furthermore, you can serve and do good even if you make a lot of money and can be exploitative and greedy even if you are on the front lines fighting for justice. Check your intentions and behavior. Do good work. Sit down and be humble regardless of your profession and status.

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