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Service

The Great Spiritual Bounty of Service to Humanity

Joseph Roy Sheppherd | Sep 8, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Joseph Roy Sheppherd | Sep 8, 2020

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The brief span of years we have here on Earth makes life a wondrous time of discovery, progress and fulfilment. Life, however, is not just a personal experience; we share it with the rest of humanity. 

Our time here represents not merely an individualistic preparation for the next stage in our personal spiritual development, but a priceless opportunity to assist in the social development of the planet. Our personal and collective responsibility involves leaving this world in a better condition than we found it. 

But we have so many problems to solve in the world today: poverty, war, disease, ignorance, hatred and oppression. Where do we focus our limited efforts? 

The Baha’i teachings say that it requires the concerted effort of everyone to overcome these rampant social ills and replace them with abundance, peace, health, education, love and unity. Baha’is happily and constantly work to achieve these goals. Two distinctive aspects of the Baha’i way of life reflect this work: as individuals, Baha’is pray and meditate on how best to serve humankind; and collectively they consult together towards this same end. Baha’u’llah wrote: “Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”

Service to humanity is an integral part of being a Baha’i, reflected in the Baha’i attitude towards concepts such as work, motives, and achievement. Baha’is view work done in the spirit of service as a form of worship. For Baha’is, the purity of one’s motives is more important than the result of one’s actions; and in achievements, the process is just as important as the product. The Baha’i teachings offer humanity a philosophy of deeds which replaces the anarchic belief that the ends justify the means. In the Baha’i Faith, the means are the ends.

Fundamental to this concept of service is the belief that personal morality and ethical social behavior greatly benefit the progress of humankind. No one is powerless to effect beneficial change. Each person should see themselves as an empowered, significant component of the world; we should never feel helpless or insignificant. In fact, everyone has the ability to help the world on many different levels.

We can be productive individuals, responsible consumers, loving husbands and wives, exemplary parents, honorable and caring sons and daughters, considerate neighbors, and good citizens, all at the same time. Basically, we each have the responsibility to be environmentally friendly to the spiritual, social, emotional and physical well-being of the planet. All these elements of service help the condition of the world immensely.

Beyond one’s personal morality and ethical social behavior, though, everyone is endowed with skills and talents useful to humanity on a professional level. Personal capacity is often dependent upon health and opportunity, but fulfilling one’s capacity is everyone’s duty. From a Baha’i perspective, the humble person who has employed all of his few talents for the betterment of the planet and its peoples is of greater value to humankind than the person who has a multiplicity of talents but selfishly uses them solely for his own benefit: 

O son of man! If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself. Humility exalteth man to the heaven of glory and power, whilst pride abaseth him to the depths of wretchedness and degradation.

This concept of service extends beyond the Baha’is themselves. The Baha’i Faith as a religion supports the non-governmental and non-partisan activities of the United Nations and the European Community in their efforts to overcome the political differences which divide us, and organizations like the Worldwide Fund for Nature which work toward understanding the planet’s ecology and improving the environment. Baha’u’llah exhorted his followers to serve humanity in whatever way they could:

Address yourselves to the promotion of the well-being and tranquillity of the children of men. Bend your minds and wills to the education of the peoples and kindreds of the earth, that haply the dissensions that divide it may, through the power of the Most Great Name, be blotted out from its face, and all mankind become the upholders of one Order, and the inhabitants of one City.

Ultimately, everyone who becomes a Baha’i brings his or her talents and experience to the global Baha’i community, and contributes to the range of humanitarian services the Baha’i Faith offers the world. You are most welcome to join us.

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