What do you want out of life? What will make you happy?

Do you want money? Prestige? Power? A better job? Travel? A bigger house? A newer, faster car? The latest video game console? Season tickets to your favorite sports team or performing arts group?

Consider this question, then: will any of these things bring lasting or merely fleeting happiness? Will they bring contentment? Probably not. Strictly material pursuits, once accomplished, just leave us wanting more. Think about the last time you got something material that you wanted—did it satisfy you?

About a century ago, the Baha’i teachings warned us that:

Humanity is submerged in materialism; occupied in everything save the mention of God; speaking of everything save the heavenly kingdom; hearing of everything save the call of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 56.

Not much has changed since then. Just a few decades ago the Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected international body that administers the affairs of the world-wide Baha’i community, reiterated that reality:

… godlessness is rife, materialism rampant. Nationalism and racism still work their treachery in men’s hearts, and humanity remains blind to the spiritual foundations of the solution to its economic woes. – A Wider Horizon, Selected Letters 1983-1992, p. 79.

Explaining what is needed to remedy this spiritual illness, Abdu’l-Baha quoted the Bible:

Jesus Christ said, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ By this Christ meant that unless man is released from the material world, freed from the captivity of materialism and receiving a portion of the bounties of the spiritual world, he shall be deprived of the bestowals and favors of the Kingdom of God … – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 304.

Then he offered this positive belief:

It is certain that spirituality will defeat materialism, that the heavenly will subdue the human, and that through divine education the masses of mankind generally will take great steps forward in all degrees of life … – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 191.

But he also realized that there will always remain those who won’t change, the exceptions being,

… those who are [spiritually] blind and deaf and mute and dead. How can such as they understand the light? Though the sun’s rays illumine every darkest corner of the globe, still the blind can have no share in the glory, and though the rain of heavenly mercy come down in torrents over all the earth, no shrub or flower will bloom from a barren land. – Ibid., pp. 191-192.

So how can we help expedite change for the better? According to Abdu’l-Baha, each one of us needs to:

… let your faces be more radiant with hope and heavenly determination to serve the Cause of God, to spread the pure fragrances of the divine rose garden of unity, to awaken spiritual susceptibilities in the hearts of mankind, to kindle anew the spirit of humanity with divine fires and to reflect the glory of heaven to this gloomy world of materialism. When you possess these divine susceptibilities, you will be able to awaken and develop them in others. We cannot give of our wealth to the poor unless we possess it. How can the poor give to the poor? How can the soul that is deprived of the heavenly bounties develop in other souls capacity to receive those bounties?

Array yourselves in the perfection of divine virtues. I hope you may be quickened and vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Then shall ye indeed become the angels of heaven whom Christ promised would appear in this Day to gather the harvest of divine planting. This is my hope. This is my prayer for you. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 7.

Baha’is strive, in our daily lives, to truly exemplify these teachings of the Baha’i Faith—seeking to stimulate love and unity amongst the diverse races, religions and cultures among us and around the world. We welcome you to join us in this spiritual pursuit.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

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