My mom used to make the world’s best brownies.

Photo: yum9me
Photo: yum9me

No doubt about it, hands down the world’s best brownies.

I’m sorry if that offends your mom or her brownies, but it’s true.

There were always lots of chocolate chips. They were light and fluffy. They didn’t weigh your stomach down or make you feel sick when you ate a dozen pieces in a 15 minute period. I never got sick of them, and always had room after every meal for brownies.

And I only say my mom used to make them because I don’t live with my parents anymore and haven’t been to see them in a while. I’m sure she still could and does know how to make a killer batch of brownies. There are some days I just miss them. And some days, I miss my parents too. But as much as brownies are a wonderful food and a great memory in my childhood, there is one thing about brownies I don’t like.

Namely, the notion of brownie points. It is not directly related, but even hearing someone try to talk up their mother’s brownies makes me think about these brownie points.

I don’t know where the idea of brownie points comes from. I don’t know who the genius was that began putting them into practice. What I do know is what I think of them.I think they are one of the dumbest things in existence. And I’ll tell you why.

Just so that we are all on the same page, brownie points are an imaginary point system.

One may possibly receive a brownie point for doing something special.

This could be anything, something small like buying a girl a flower or complimenting a future mother in law. It could include buying a coffee for a co-worker or letting someone go ahead of you when traffic lanes are merging. More than one brownie point can be given out if something huge is done. This may range from standing on the side of the road with a sign that says “See how much I love you” or making an awesomely romantic meal for no good reason. People may get brownie points for selflessly buying someone a present when no occasion required it to doing something like giving a spouse a massage without payment in return.

On the surface, the notion of brownie points is quite innocent. And in many ways it resembles the idea of Karma. Going along with the idea of Karma, doing good things for other people will no doubt make your life, present or future, better and it is quite possible the favour will be returned.

But there is a problem.That isn’t the way that brownie points work. Theory is one thing, reality turns out to be something else entirely.

These points have no real life merit.

You don’t achieve something when you receive so many brownie points. You can’t redeem the points for a shopping spree, a trip to L.A. or some other reward that you want.Brownies points have no consistency. There is no standard for what earns a person one brownie point or two, or five, or fifteen. It becomes a matter of opinion. “I think this selfless act is worth five brownie points. Yours is only worth three.” It really is an act in futility trying to determine how much your karmic act is worth and what you should get back. But we do it. People count out brownie points, keep track. Some may joke about it, others are totally serious. But I have this question.

As Christians, is a brownie point system, or a karmic system something that we should be practicing?

When I read through the teachings of Jesus obviously brownie points doesn’t come up. I don’t think that name had been attached to the idea yet.

But people doing things so that they would be looked favorably upon and receive something in return; that idea was around.

But Jesus didn’t want people to live that way.

Jesus didn’t want people to do good works, to bless one another so that they would get points, or get something in return.

Jesus didn’t want people to live a life of karmic acts, trying to build up karma points.

Jesus wants us to love.

And this love that He calls us to is quite different than the notion of brownie points.

Jesus said,

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.
Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:27-30, 32-35 NASB)” 

This was not a lifestyle of “I’ll do this for you, so you do it for me.”

This was a lifestyle of sacrifice, a life of giving, an attitude of “I’m wanting to do something good for you because deep in my heart I care about you.”

That is what Christians are supposed to do. That is what we are called to do with our days, with our lives.

Not a karma point system.

But a love ethic.

A dying to ones’ self and thinking of an other.

When I used the example of someone standing on the side of the road holding a sign that says “See How Much I Love You”, that wasn’t something that I made up as my fingers tapped the keys of my computer. That is something that I did.

Ask my wife about it. Ask her family. They were all there. They all saw it.

I remember long after the fact, my now father-in-law told me that if I had let him in on the secret, he would have stopped for me.

He would have pulled the vehicle over so that I wasn’t just standing there on the side of the road with a sign.

I smiled at him, knowing his heart was in the right place.

“But that would defeat the purpose,” I said. “The point was for you to pass by. I wanted your daughter to know that I loved her enough to do something as stupid and selfless as that.”

It may be a weird example of living out the love Jesus calls us to, but it is one of the best that I can recall from my life.

Brownie points might be fun, and I’m taking all of this too seriously. It could just be the phrase that people use as part of a ribbing joke. And that is fine.

But when it comes to real life, when it comes time to actually act and be like Jesus, I hope that we do better than a silly karma point system.

I pray that we would be people that would take Jesus’ words seriously, and love in a selfless way.


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