You may have heard their commercials on the radio or seen them on TV. Those kind and thoughtful Helpful Honda people are always around when you seem to need help. Whether your mom needs a new air conditioner, the football program at your underprivileged school needs some financial oomph, or you just want free gas, Helpful Honda people are looking for ways to meet needs in your community. I really want to travel to Europe sometime and I could use a new car because my “Little Ford Focus that Couldn’t” keeps breaking down. Maybe the Helpful Honda people will see this blog and give me a brand new Honda and an all expenses paid trip to Rome. One can dream, right?
Christians can learn a thing or two from the Helpful Honda campaign. For one, Helpful Honda people are willing to seek needs rather than waiting for needs to come knocking on their showroom door. Second, Helpful Honda people are doing really good work restoring schools, helping underprivileged communities, and blessing people with free gas. When was the last time you bought a tank of gas for someone? But that’s where the dark side of Helpful Honda shows through. Behind all the philanthropic positives and kind Mr. Rogers-esque enthusiasm about helping your neighbor, Helpful Honda is a shockingly accurate reminder of sin.
See, Helpful Honda runs on the basis of karma: “I’ll help you meet your need to make myself look and feel better.” It’s a program designed not to help people as it claims but to give Honda a better reputation, provide content for marketing campaigns, and get people in the door to buy a new car with low interest rates. The end goal of Helpful Honda is not to help people. The end goal of Helpful Honda is to manipulate people into buying more Hondas. Karma, masquerading as Helpful Honda, is selfish. It’s all about using and manipulating someone to make yourself look good and feel better, and maybe something good will happen to you as a result. Someone who believes in karma doesn’t open the door for me because they want to serve me; they open the door for me so that something good will fall back on them. Karma isn’t externally focused at all, and it’s one of the most deceptive ideologies in our world today. Thankfully, Jesus came to save us from karma.
In 1 John, the apostle John writes that our human understanding of love was incomplete until Jesus came and died on a cross for us. In 3:16 John writes, “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Jesus, quite literally, redefined love for us by coming to serve instead of be served (Matt. 20:28, Mark 10:45). He showed us that loves looks a lot like crossing your legs in the dust of Nazareth with the least of these—the lepers, the blind, the paraplegics, and the demon-possessed. Jesus showed us that love looks a lot like a King washing the camel dung and dirt off of 24 calloused and bunioned feet before breaking bread with His betrayer. Love looks a lot like a King born with chords trumpeted from the throats of donkeys and sheep rather than brass melodies. Love looks a lot like a cross. It looks like helping people who can’t return the favor and dying for your enemies. Both Jesus and karma died on a cross 2,000 years ago, but only One raised three days later.
Karma is a painful reminder that no matter how “good” of a morally upstanding citizen you claim to be, you’re still hopelessly wicked. No matter how many good things Honda tries to do, it’s still a flawed system. People nowadays call that manipulation and it destroys healthy relationships all the time. I’m very passive aggressive, I should know this.
But like Tim Keller once mentioned, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Even the most seemingly innocent worldview, karma, is completely broken without Jesus. Even the nicest, most well-intentioned people are still the most wicked and selfish jerks deep down inside. But Jesus died for broken systems filled with vicious jerks. Just look at me.