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How to Work Joyfully in the Spirit of Service

Lawrence M. Miller | Mar 26, 2023

PART 4 IN SERIES Ethical Leadership: Baha’i Principles at Work

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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Lawrence M. Miller | Mar 26, 2023

PART 4 IN SERIES Ethical Leadership: Baha’i Principles at Work

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

The mission of Baha’u’llah focuses on creating a new civilization — and that includes the way we work.

We spend more time at work than in any other institution or environment, with the possible exception of the family. Baha’is believe that the nature of the work system and our own orientation to work must evolve, so we view our work, no matter how humble or exalted, as work done in the spirit of service to our fellow beings and, therefore, to the Creator Himself.

RELATED: 4 Quotes on Spiritual Service that Guide My Professional Work

Doing work in the spirit of service may at first sound sacrificial, giving up something for no benefit to the self – but this is wrong. The mystery of sacrifice? There is no sacrifice, because each sacrifice results in a return. We can find the return in our own spiritual growth. The return comes in the satisfaction of knowing one has done the right thing, knowing that one has contributed to a greater cause, or has somehow brought joy to a fellow human being. Truly, performing work in the spirit of service vitally contributes to spiritual growth and maturity. But we will also see that service simply means good business.

Baha’is believe that God has created all humanity in His image — not physically, but spiritually, as Baha’u’llah wrote in The Hidden Words

Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.

It makes logical sense, then, that service to our fellow human beings equals service to God. When we conspire to make our work into a service to humanity, this doesn’t necessarily contradict the benefits to the employer, the corporation, or to one’s self. All these ends can be served together. 

If you work preparing the meals in a restaurant, for example, you can do that with your heart focused on serving those who will eat the meal, trying your best to make sure the meal brings them delight as well as nourishment, striving so the environment of the restaurant uplifts their spirits and confirms their relationship with their guests. If you’re successful, you’ll serve the interests of the restaurant, too, satisfying customers and encouraging them to return. You’ll also derive joy and deep satisfaction from your work, knowing that it helped others.

The next time someone serves you in a restaurant or in any business transaction, look for this quality of joy and satisfaction. When you find it, you’ve likely found someone who loves serving others. 

RELATED: Creating a Spiritual Workplace

Baha’is believe strongly in the importance of this principle — in fact, the Baha’i teachings say that the education of all the world’s children should include this vital understanding of work as service. Abdu’l-Baha put it this way:

All the children must be educated so that there will not remain one single individual without an education. In cases of inability on the part of the parents through sickness, death, etc., the state must educate the child. In addition to this widespread education, each child must be taught a profession or trade so that each individual member of the body politic will be enabled to earn his own living and at the same time serve the community. Work done in the spirit of service is worship.

That elevation of work done in the spirit of service to the station of worship is unique to the Baha’i Faith — but it depends entirely on honesty and trustworthiness, which Baha’u’llah said constitutes the “chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity:”

We have enjoined upon all to become engaged in some trade or profession, and have accounted such occupation to be an act of worship. Before all else, however, thou shouldst receive, as a sign of God’s acceptance, the mantle of trustworthiness from the hands of divine favour; for trustworthiness is the chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity.

Honesty and trustworthiness also contribute to the perfection of any person’s craft or profession, which Abdu’l-Baha called “the source of human happiness:”

Perfection of work is man’s greatest reward. When a man sees his work perfected and this perfection is the result of incessant labour and application he is the happiest man in the world. Work is the source of human happiness.

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