Spiritual Thoughts on Seinfeld, Episode 83: “The Opposite”
No significant spoilers
George Costanza: “It became very clear to me sitting out there today that every decision I’ve made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat – it’s all been wrong.”
Seinfeld has profoundly impacted my life from an early age. Hopefully, it has influenced my sense of humor more than my values as the TV show follows four extremely selfish individuals in Manhattan who are always scheming to get ahead, whether it involves making money, getting into a relationship, or getting out of one. And George’s selfishness and shamelessness exceeds them all. After years of unemployment and living with his parents, he says the words above, realizing that he has failed to achieve the life he desires. Consequently, he chooses to do the exact opposite of every instinct he has, transforming his life (at least for the episode). Could this idea transform yours as well?
For George, “tuna on toast” is changed for “chicken salad on rye, untoasted.” This simple change brings about positive consequences, as he soon meets a beautiful woman who ordered the same sandwich. More importantly, he chooses boldness over timidity, honesty over lies, and calm over road rage. And when his date expresses bewilderment at his behavior when he decides not to go up to her apartment, he explains, “I’m the opposite of every guy you’ve ever met.”
Any viewer who has seen this episode or any other episode will probably agree that George Costanza should do the opposite of every instinct. But, is it only George? What did Jesus say?
The Ultimate Opposite
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. 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.” (Luke 6:20b-30)1
When Jesus says that the poor and hungry are blessed, we see that his worldview and priorities seem rather different from most people. While I notice in myself the continual desire to have the perfect life: job, family, home, comfort, and such, Jesus seems to esteem something else. Body and material possessions are expendable for something greater, something eternal, something relational.
Then, Jesus gives instructions. These “opposite” actions only makes sense if one holds His “opposite” worldview. In fact, Jesus’s instructions are completely absurd when tied with self-focused values, but they obviously follow from his priorities. Turning the other cheek won’t help me attain the perfect life, but it does bring the kingdom of God, which can also be described as “[God’s] will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) And this is the Gospel, or Good News of the Kingdom, that Jesus offers us a life that’s better than the perfect life, where we can experience love, not just for those who like us, but even for those who hate us. He does not just give us temporary experiences, but love that lasts forever.
Choosing the Right Opposite
So, should we simply do the opposite like George? Probably not. When he’s at the movies with a date, two obnoxious viewers kick chairs, making loud and disgusting comments. Though George exhibits the virtue of overcoming fear, he proceeds to scream and threaten, which I’d consider a vice. We see that there is a ditch on both sides of the road.
Instead of thoughtlessly doing the opposite, let’s have a little more humility over the beliefs we hold. George put it as “ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I’ve ever had.” Perhaps, some of our deeply held beliefs are wrong. I must question my own thoughts as well as the underlying assumptions in our culture. It would be great to see a little more humility on Facebook, although I wouldn’t mind if you shared this blog post and forcefully tell everyone that they must read it.
The longer I follow Jesus, the more I realize that many of my instincts and good judgement are rather different from God’s wisdom. So, instead of just doing the opposite, maybe we should simply learn Jesus’ worldview? And as opposite as His instructions might seem, why not give them a try?
George: “This is no longer just some crazy notion. Jerry, this is my religion.”
Seinfeld images are copyright by respective production studios and distributors. Intended for editorial use only.
- All scripture from NASB translation. ↩