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TELEVISION

It's Unanimous: People are Selfish

By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer

CBN.comIt seems more like something you would see as part of a university research program than something that you would watch on television. Unan1mous, the latest reality TV show from Fox Network is indeed an interesting sociological experiment. Nine strangers are taken to an underground bunker where they will live together with no windows, no sense of time, and no contact with the outside world. They soon learn that what they have signed up for is a competition in which one person could win 1.5 million dollars. The catch is that they have to decide unanimously which one of them will win the money.

Although the show has not found favor with most critics, it has found an audience. Approximately 13.7 million viewers have tuned in each week to watch the nine contestants attempt to decide who should win the big bucks. What I have observed through the program’s seven episodes is a snapshot of humanity at its worst. Or perhaps the contestants are merely reflecting humanity in its typical state. Let me explain.

As soon as the objective of the game was announced, people began to form their strategies. What would be the fairest way to decide who gets the money? Perhaps they should get to know each other and determine who needs it the most. That seems like an ethical idea.

However, it doesn’t take long for greed and selfishness to take center stage when one of the contestants pretends to have testicular cancer in an attempt to gain sympathy votes.

Eventually, the group comes to a decision that a different contestant, a trucker named Steve who professes to be a Christian, deserves the money because he says his family needs it, and he comes across to them as a genuinely nice guy. They promise each other they will all vote for him, and he excitedly prepares himself to walk away with the $1.5 million dollars.

However, when the votes are cast it becomes apparent that one person did not vote for Steve as promised. Not surprisingly, it is the pseudo cancer sufferer who cast the conflicting vote.

A female contestant, a minister, becomes so upset that someone lied to the group that she decides to drop out of the game. Even though others criticize her motives as selfish (because the penalty for someone leaving the show is that the prize money is immediately cut in half), she decides to leave the bunker because she wants no part of the greed and deception that plagues the game.

The prize money is now reduced by half. In addition, money is being deducted from the prize total with every second that the group cannot reach a decision. As the money falls to below $500,000, the group devises a new strategy that perhaps the person who has “played the game the best” deserves to win.

This strategy presents a problem. What is meant by the person who played the game the best? Should that title be awarded to the person who has been the nicest and least deceptive? Or is the best player the person who best lied and manipulated the other contestants in his or her efforts to win the game?

As the show continues the players become more vicious in their attempts to win, and they become more aggravated with each other’s betrayal and manipulation. As episode seven draws to a close we find the contestants yelling and cursing at each other and divided into two opposing groups that will not even eat their meals together.

Now I return to my question of whether this is a portrait of humanity at its worst, or humanity just doing what humanity does best.

Some would say that the pressures of the game merely brought out the worst in these contestants. Ordinarily, they are nice people living decent lives. They are not normally this selfish. Others may claim that the contestants’ actions are justified. After all, the show is just a game, and all of the scheming and lying are just strategies. People do what they have to do to win the game.

I think another principle is at work. It is human nature to put ourselves first. The game simply brought out what was in each contestant’s heart to begin with, their “true colors”. Even when there is not a large amount of money at risk, people tend to look out for themselves before thinking of others. One of the best places to observe this is by watching young children. Who has not witnessed two children fighting to play with the same toy or comparing each other’s cups of juice to be sure their friend has not received more than they did?

At our core, we are selfish. I believe this applies to Christians and non-Christians alike. In the Bible we watch even the disciples argue over who will be the greatest in the future kingdom of Christ. They each want to be honored above the others. Though we are Christians, the task of putting others before ourselves can still be difficult at times.

Just as the show’s contestants justify their behavior as simply doing what is needed to win the game, we often rationalize our own selfishness. If I don’t look out for myself, who will? If I don’t stand up for my rights, people will walk all over me. Yet, Scripture teaches that God does not approve of selfish behavior.

Galatians 5 lists selfish ambition as being an action of the flesh, our sinful nature. Christ has called us to not live by the flesh, but to live by the Spirit. Paul explained it well, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5).

Watching this televised experiment these past few weeks has served as a reminder to me about the Christian life. If we continually seek our own interests at the expense of others, those around us will not see the love of Christ. It is our love for others and a servant’s attitude that sets us apart from the world.

We may never be featured on a national television show, but there are still people watching us very closely. Because we are Christians, people observe us to see how we handle ourselves when the pressure is on and the storms of life assault us. They form opinions about Christ and Christianity by how they see us acting in a given situation.

We may not be competing for a huge amount of money, but there is a lot at stake in this “game” of life. We represent Christ on earth, and we should be mindful of what our actions and attitudes say about Him.

The good news is that even though our natural tendency is selfishness, we are no longer ruled by our sinful nature. As Paul concluded in Romans 8:9, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”

May we remember that as we press onward toward the heavenly prize to which Christ has called us.

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More articles by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com

 

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