“Relationship-building through sharing.” That is a brief definition for “dating” I suggested in my previous article for the singles in God’s Church.
I love the word “sharing,” because it not only encompasses the idea of giving and serving—key factors in godly dating—but it also happens in both directions, and both parties benefit.
This aligns with the principle found in Acts 20:35, where the Apostle Paul quoted Jesus as saying: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When you share, you’ve given, but you haven’t subtracted something from yourself. You’ve also received, because you have been blessed.
You could say the enemy of dating—and of all harmonious relationships—is selfishness.
‘Never Heard Such a Message’
This truth is the essence of the gospel. Herbert W. Armstrong delivered this message during his ministry, and it continues to go to this world through Gerald Flurry. This is the work we all support.
A monumental moment in the work illustrates this. In late 1979, Mr. Armstrong was the first Christian leader invited by the Chinese government to address them. Not only was this a giant open door for God’s Work, but it was an earthquake of an event in the Christian world, and even had ramifications in international diplomacy.
Mr. Armstrong used that development to educate the Church in a special way—explaining that, on the one hand, he had to use the right language in addressing an atheist country, but on the other, he had to deliver to them the gospel of the coming one-world government of God. How did he do that?
I’ll let an attendee answer that question. Stanley Rader’s Against the Gates of Hell states: “A Chinese employee of the Liberian embassy in Peking told one member of our party: ‘I have never heard such a message as I heard last night in the Great Hall of the People. There are two ways of life. The way of getting causes all the troubles in the world, and the way of giving is the solution. I wish I could hear more on this subject, and I hope to hear soon that we may have an office of the Ambassador Foundation here. I have never seen such a man as Mr. Armstrong.”
This man got it! There are two ways. One causes all troubles in the world, and the other provides the solution to any problem.
Self-Centeredness Is Deception
What that Chinese employee heard directly contrasts a message society promotes. It pervades much of our so-called entertainment. It’s the character who says, I’ve looked out for everyone else all this time, but no one has looked out for me. It is stated as though this person is miserable and has been missing out on something. That is fiction. It is deception.The Bible is clear that if that person had actually been doing that with the right attitude, then they would be more blessed.
When God sentenced Adam after partaking of the forbidden tree, Mr. Armstrong quoted the essence of what God told him: “In all this Satan will deceive your world with his attitude of self-centeredness—with vanity, lust and greed, jealousy and envy, competition and strife and violence and wars, rebellion against me and my law of love.”
Notice, Satan deceives the world with this attitude. Self-centeredness is a deception. Society’s message of but who’s going to look out for ME? may sound logical, but it fosters jealousy, envy, competition and strife.
The Bible doesn’t phrase it as though it’s “better,” but more blessed to give. As in, giving “gets” you more blessings. Mr. Armstrong explained in The Missing Dimension in Sex that, when we learn first this, we have to take God’s word for it—like Adam should have. These laws are invisible, just as the law of gravity is technically invisible. But we know, if we take God at His word and live this way, that it yields fruits—visible fruits. Just as you can see the results of gravity, when you give, you start to see the fruits of having more than you had before! You realize that by giving, you actually received.
Couples Who Don’t Know God’s Law
To take this back into the realm of dating and relationships, it should be clear how, to whatever extent selfishness is a factor in our lives, it will be a factor in all our relationships.
But you might look at the world and wonder how so many couples throughout history have married and stayed married. Some fairly selfish people have made a marriage work. How is that possible?
Mr. Armstrong explained this in a profound section of a July 1971 Plain Truth article. He talks about a couple supposedly in love: “In his mind, she belongs to him, is allied to him and, as long as things go well, like part of him. He is the same to her. But just as soon as things go wrong—perhaps she denies him his desires—perhaps he doesn’t give her any money, or fails to be considerate—just as soon as one steps on the other’s toes—then the sense of alliance is broken. Then self wells up against the other. Then the other is no longer part of self.”
He suggested that 99 percent of all marriages are based on this false “love”—in reality, selfishness. “Just as long as she pleases him—as long as she gives him that delightful sense of enamorment, of luscious enjoyment—he thinks he loves her deeply. In reality, he loves what he receives from her. This, in turn, gives him the feeling that she is a part of his empirical self.” That is the term Mr. Armstrong coined to describe the “empire” of self.
“He loves self—and as long as she is able to remain, in his sight, that allied part of self, he will feel that he is in love with her,” he continued. “This works both ways. As long as she is pleased with him—receiving from him what she desires—retaining the sense of alliance—she will feel she is in love with him. The self is simply carnality. It is human nature. What chance, then, does the average marriage have? There are more factors than this one involved. But, so long as each receives from the other what satisfies his or her self, the marriage will last.”
How profound! Some relationships can last as long as each party “gets” out of it what he or she wants!
How It Works
It is more blessed to live the way God lives, and the way He has created everything to operate. This principle is found throughout the Bible. Let’s look at a few poignant Proverbs.
“He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). If you look out for others, you will be blessed.
“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again” (Proverbs 19:17). God says giving to the poor, or to someone in need, is like giving to God. The poor can’t pay you back, but God says He will!
“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty” (Proverbs 11:24). This is similar to the aphorism, What we give we gain; what we keep, we lose.
Verse 25 continues: “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”
Satan had a different philosophy: If we each try to get for ourselves, then at least we each will be sure to have enough. But that doesn’t work, and it eventually leads to violence. The invisible laws set up by the God of the universe state that, if you give someone water, you will have water.
If we let Satan’s deception seep into our lives, we will easily view everything as a contest to get as much for ourselves as we can. This will work its way into our relationships in the form of competition. The spirit of competition can even creep into our “serving” and “giving.” We could think we’re giving and yet be motivated by an attitude of competition.
Remember that the Work we support is one of giving.
1 Corinthians 13:3 warns: “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” This is a form of “giving” that isn’t blessed—it profits us nothing. We gain nothing by operating in that spirit.
How disingenuous it is to give because we know it is how we can “get”—even if what we get is a self-righteous feeling.
This spirit of competition is so hard to resist because it pervades this Satan-deceived world. In his Autobiography, Mr. Armstrong called Satan the “unseen Master Competitor.” This is the being described in Ephesians 2:2 as the “prince of the power of the air.” Verse 3 says this makes us “by nature the children of wrath.”
“The spirit in every human being is automatically tuned in on Satan’s wavelength,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Incredible Human Potential. “You don’t hear anything because he does not broadcast in words—nor in sounds, whether music or otherwise. He broadcasts in attitudes. He broadcasts in attitudes of self-centeredness, lust, greed, vanity, jealousy, envy, resentment, competition, strife, bitterness and hate.” James 4:5 confirms this by saying, “The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.”
A Pull to the Ground
This pull is so automatic that Mr. Armstrong likened it to gravity: “Human nature is a pull, like the power of gravity, in the direction of vanity, greed, self-love, and spirit of competition, hostility, indifference, resentment or hatred, toward others. That is man’s natural attitude and tendency. It is a constant pull on man in that direction. It is the way that comes naturally. Because a subtle Satan, still on Earth’s throne, begins injecting that attitude during the first year of infant life” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).
Imagine holding a pencil in your hand. Whether you think about it consciously, you’re resisting the power of gravity—because if you let go, that pencil will fall to the ground. If we are not close to God and led by His Spirit, we are being pulled in the direction of all those devilish traits.
Consider how easily we are being pulled into the spirit of competition. It is easy to see dating as a contest. You can look at the statistics of male vs. female as a zero-sum game. There is a short, finite list of prospects of the opposite sex. Dating becomes like “shopping” or analyzing another person to death (based on a list of self-centered criteria), rather than building relationships through sharing. In the process, you build fewer friendships, feel lonelier, and turn more inward. In this scenario, if you were actually giving—actually serving and sharing—you would be gaining. That’s because it’s more blessed that way.
To whatever degree this happens among God’s singles, we should be mindful of how this spirit is in the air, and it is the pull on each of us. This is what comes naturally to all of us if we are not led by God’s Spirit, the main fruit of which is love.
Want Great Gain?
We can all examine our personal relationships as a barometer of how much give is in our lives, versus how much competition, envy or jealousy.
Instead of wondering what we can get, we should consider how much we can add, build, share, energize, and contribute of ourselves to God’s great Work. If we’re just looking for what we can gain, we will be a drain.
“If any man teach otherwise … He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).
Paul said to stay away from people who think gain is the ultimate achievement. But he followed with: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (verse 6). It is not just gain, but great gain. The more we give—with the giving attitude—the more we receive. The more we make others happy, the more bliss is in our lives.
In 2 Corinthians 8:13, Paul wrote: “I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened.” It is easy to think of giving with that attitude, isn’t it? It’s time for me to burden myself with giving. So we carve it out of our time, like slicing off a stick of butter, and seeing if it spreads around enough. Then we feel spread so thin. But we would not feel that way if giving was our entire being. It wasn’t meant to be a burden. It benefits us too!
Remember, the Bible is full of this principle: Give and you will have. Water, and you will not go thirsty. Feed, and you will not be hungry.
Christ reinforced this principle of giving during His earthly ministry. And it applies even in how we interact with each other: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
Truly, as Mr. Armstrong said in The Missing Dimension in Sex: “God’s way is the only practical way, that ‘pays off’ in rich dividends of true happiness and joy.”