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In the Baha’i Faith, the concept of “service” plays an important role, and we believe that service to others gives meaning and purpose to life.
Service to humanity is service to God.Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 8
In the Baha’i Writings, there are many aspects to service, and there are just as many ways to serve as there are ‘servants of God’, so let’s break it down and reflect on the idea of service as it relates to the Faith:
Work is Worship
From the Baha’i perspective, any work or profession carried out in a spirit of service to humanity, is considered as the worship of God. This means that one’s labor is elevated to the station of worship. In Abdu’l-Baha’s words:
In the Baha’i Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are (counted as) worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise.Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 176-177
It is inspiring to see here, how Abdu’l-Baha talks about service. It seems that any effort that comes with pure intentions – even just making a piece of notepaper – is seen as praise and service. Putting effort into one’s profession for the betterment of the world is a way of worshipping God. It is like a prayer, an offering to the Almighty and through Him to mankind. This means that also praying is a form of service. In His mystical work, the Seven Valleys, Bahá’u’lláh talks about the dynamics of prayer and our ability to act and serve in the Valley of Unity:
A servant is drawn unto Me in prayer until I answer him; and when I have answered him, I become the ear wherewith he heareth….” For thus the Master of the house hath appeared within His home, and all the pillars of the dwelling are ashine with His light. And the action and effect of the light are from the Light-Giver; so it is that all move through Him and arise by His will.Baha’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 22
Serving Humanity through Self-development
Baha’is believe that all human beings are born noble. Developing one’s talents and capacities enables to lead a life of service to society. Baha’u’llah teaches:
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p. 260
Shoghi Effendi also states that service can work as a fuel for completely transforming our characters:
The power of God can entirely transmute our characters and make of us beings entirely unlike our previous selves. Through … ever-increasing service to His Faith, we can change ourselves.Shoghi Effendi, letter Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 22 November 1941 to an individual believer
The purpose of life is to develop our capacities both for our own lives and for the service of humanity. Service to others and to humanity is the key in building together a global society. It provides spiritual and material prosperity for all people.
That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.Baha’u’llah, Gleanings, p. 250
Baha’u’llah’s statement requires identifying the interconnectedness between the individual and all of mankind. Our individual development should be linked to centering our energies to the betterment of humankind and serving the needs of society.
Service and the Baha’i Funds
For Baha’is giving to the Baha’i Funds is one way of serving. Baha’is consider the opportunity of contributing to the Baha’i Fund as a spiritual privilege and a sacred obligation. It is reserved for those who have recognized Baha’u’llah. Consequently, no contributions in any form for the advancement of the Baha’i Faith can be accepted from any persons who are not registered as Baha’is.
Contributing to the Fund is a service every believer can render, be he poor or wealthy; for this is a spiritual responsibility in which the amount given is not important. It is the degree of sacrifice of the giver, and the love with which he makes his gift, and the unity of the friends in this service which brings spiritual confirmations…Universal House of Justice, from a letter of the Universal House of Justice to Baha’is of the East and West, December 18, 1963: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 19-20
Individuals can also contribute to the Baha’i Funds in someone’s honor or memory. Giving to the Funds on someone’s behalf is a way of extending blessings in their way.
Find Your Way to Serve
The cool thing about service is that it is an activity and life attitude for all ages and life situations. Anyone can serve according to his or her capacity, be it community building, participating in devotional gatherings, helping in empowering junior youth, providing spiritual education for children, praying for someone, or through social action. All forms of service bring joy and draw blessings like a magnet.
There is nothing that brings success in the Faith like service. Service is the magnet which draws the divine confirmations. Thus, when a person is active, they are blessed by the Holy Spirit. When they are inactive, the Holy Spirit cannot find a repository in their being, and thus they are deprived of its healing and quickening rays.Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 12 July 1952 to an individual believer
Blessed is he who in the prime of his youth and the heyday of his life will arise to serve the Cause of the Lord of the beginning and of the end, and adorn his heart with His love. The manifestation of such a grace is greater than the creation of the heavens and of the earth. Blessed are the steadfast and well is it with those who are firm.Baha’u’llah, Compilation of Compilations, Volume 2, p. 415
The attitude of service is something very integral to Baha’i life. What is your way of serving?
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