Serving others is a source of happiness, honour and meaning in life. In addition to the positive results for those helped, serving humanity – with pure intentions – also immensely enriches one’s own life.
In order to create a better and peaceful world civilization, based on the principles of justice, prosperity, and continuing advancement, individuals need to be empowered to express their God-given talents and capacities in service to humanity. Not only does service provide immediate benefits to our communities, but it also creates bonds of solidarity and common purpose among those involved.
It is through service to others that one can bring about social change. The Bahá’í Writings assert: “… is there any deed in the world that would be nobler than service to the common good? Is there any greater blessing conceivable for a man, than that he should become the cause of the education, the development, the prosperity and honour of his fellow-creatures? No, by the Lord God! The highest righteousness of all is for blessed souls to take hold of the hands of the helpless … and with pure motives, and only for the sake of God, to arise and energetically devote themselves to the service of the masses, forgetting their own worldly advantage and working only to serve the general good”.
Our potential as individuals, and the potential of human society, in the Bahá’í view, are both limitless. Each one of us, regardless of race, gender, tribe or nation is endowed with rich qualities, virtues and powers. To fulfil the possibilities of this God- given endowment is seen as the purpose of human existence. As we are also social beings, self-realization and fulfilment of our potential can only be accomplished through serving our fellow human beings. Our honour and distinction consist in our becoming a source of social good.
We have to remember that, in selfless service to society is the possibility for both personal growth and enhancing one’s capacity to contribute to social progress. According to the Bahá’í Writings “Service to humanity is service to God”.
Promoting the best interests of humanity
Humanity as a whole has now reached a new level of maturity. It is now possible to create societies founded upon cooperation, trust, and genuine concern for others. The Bahá’í Writings state: “It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action. … That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth”.
Individuals should be trained to have attitudes and behaviours that constitute a pattern for the better functioning of society at large. Service to humanity, participation and cooperation lead to social cohesion. Furthermore, for sustainable social cohesion and equitable action there is a need for a belief in, and the practice of, “unity in diversity” – achievable only through the acceptance of the concept of the oneness of humanity.
The new paradigm advanced by the Bahá’í Faith focuses on cultivating capacity in individuals to participate in their own intellectual and spiritual development, leading the way for personal transformation. In addition, it is intended to empower them to become agents of constructive social change in their communities. The program includes systematic study of the Holy Writings as the first step towards personal transformation.
Studying the Creative Word of God in depth helps the individual to obtain a more adequate understanding of God’s Revelation and to translate these teachings into reality. The knowledge acquired is then applied to effect individual and collective transformation. Such programmes try to build capacity for service by concentrating on the application of the spiritual insights gained through profound study of the Holy Writings. Such a study is combined with some form of service to the community. When study and service are joined and carried out concurrently, the understanding of the sacred Scriptures, both in terms of individual growth and social progress increases greatly, because in the field of service knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practice, and new levels of understanding are achieved.
Work done in the spirit of service to humanity is worship
The Bahá’í Writings elevate work done in the spirit of service to humanity to the rank of worship. “…work is worship when performed in a spirit of service, and can secure the means of existence with dignity and honour”.
Accordingly, we need to foster a new work ethic, based on a spirit of service to humanity, including one’s family, neighbours, community, and nation; and provide the practical means for its expression in the education process through service-oriented programs. A service ethic produces superior workers. Both the responsibility and the right to work are sacred.
Transformation of the society and the world around us should start with each one of us. Through selfless service to humanity, the essential principles of social integration – including compassion, understanding, sacrifice, humility, and commitment to justice – are manifested in society.
OPINION: Flora Teckie