THE GREATEST SERVICE
(Friday, April 24, 2020)
There are many ways of helping people: by charity, giving food, clothes, alms, serving them personally, looking after them, working in hospitals, nursing them, et cetera; but all this is physical help. It does good to the doer, but at the same time places one under an obligation within the process of evolution. Why? For instance, I have no food and am starving. I come to you and ask for food; you give me, I eat and am satisfied. This is very subtle. What happens is you save me from starvation, and if you feel you have done a good turn, your ego is fed, and I automatically get the mental impression of being helped, which I must repay to you in some way or the other. The selfless service demands two things which are very difficult to do. Help others, serve others, but in a way in which you are, not even for a moment, conscious of having helped or served them. This is possible only if you forget yourself one hundred percent and become lost in the service. That is why it’s said the only way to help human beings is not just tending to their physical needs, but to give them spiritual upliftment, making them know that the purpose of life is knowing God in perfect honesty, not by hearsay or hearing. So you feel the need to do something for the needy, for others. Help others; that is very good indeed. But unless you know how to do it, there is always a chance of getting into a mess.
We as human beings have a tendency of thinking a lot in one go. But we must recognise our limitations too. Since we live in a physical world and have been provided with a physical body, so we think physical. We forget that we have divine powers and when we think of divine powers, we can do service beyond our limits. We as human beings have forgotten that our actual entity or our own self and our actual powers exist in the soul. The more we are silent, the more we are able to recognise ourselves and the more we understand the method to use our divine powers. Whenever any disaster takes place, we all are under the grip of fear and we run here and there to save ourselves. However, when we use our divine powers, we can save ourselves, but the method will be different. Using divine powers means going beyond our limitation and not only think of saving ourselves but how we can save others without being able to actually go there.
When we hear or read about people who are in pain and suffering across the world, we help them physically and financially. But we can help only some people and at some time. Our help cannot reach all the people every time. There are different types of services:
- Service through actions – contributing our time, skills and talents for the benefit of others or financial contributions is service in action.
- Service through words – sharing spiritual wisdom, knowledge or experiences and advice is serving through words.
- Service through thoughts – when praying or meditating consciously radiating vibrations of peace, love and happiness to people and to the world is serving through thoughts. Just by living peace, love and happiness, our vibrations are radiating into the world every moment, even when we are asleep. This service can be done always and can reach out to everyone.
To send pure vibrations or blessings we could set aside a few minutes every morning or do it any time during the day – even while cooking, driving, or walking. We can first choose the person and purpose for sending our blessings. It could be for a family member who is in pain, for a neighbour, for a stranger about whom we heard or saw, for a city or for an entire country which going through a crisis or for the world. There is no limit on the number of people we can bless and heal; that is the power we have. We can send blessings either individually or in groups. We can do it as a family, children can do it during their school prayers, or groups of friends or colleagues. Collective vibrations raise the power and results faster.
By being a benevolent soul, we can help the entire man kind to live in peace and harmony by donating good wishes and pure feelings through the positive thoughts created by our mind. The energy of the positive thoughts is such a powerful tool to transform the negative thoughts of human mind and even can conquer the atmosphere. It teaches us to be a non self – centred persons by helping the rest without expecting for any rewards, fame or popularity but it’s all happens in an incognito way. Every human soul on earth has the power to solve every problem with the help of divine powers which we get with the intervention of divine authority. There is no way out of saving yourself or the world without the intervention of divine authority and His guidance.
2.0 JESUS’ WARNING AGAINST DOING GOOD TO BE SEEN BY OTHERS
In Mathew 6:1 we read, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Charitable deeds are actually the word righteousness. Jesus tells us to not do righteous things for the sake of display or image. Jesus has just clearly shown God’s righteous standard; perhaps He anticipated the thought “Wouldn’t everybody be impressed if I was like that?” So here Jesus addressed the danger of cultivating an image of righteousness. It is almost impossible to do spiritual things in front of others without thinking what their opinion is of us as we do those things, and how they are thinking better or worse of us as we do what we do. This does not contradict His previous command to let your light so shine before men (Matthew 5:16). Although Christians are to be seen doing good works, they must not do good works simply to be seen. The idea is when we do righteous deeds for the attention and applause of men, their attention and applause is our reward. It is much better to receive a reward from your Father in heaven. There are some who say that all that is important is the doing of the deed. How I do it is much less important than the doing of it. However, God cares about how we do our good works, and with what motive we do them. Jesus thus begins to deal with three spiritual disciplines: giving, prayer, and fasting. These three were (and are) the most prominent practical requirements for personal piety in mainstream Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
3.0 EXAMPLES OF THE WRONG KIND OF GIVING AND THE RIGHT KIND OF GIVING
In Mathew 6: 2-4 we read, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” It was a custom for some in Jesus’ day to draw attention to their giving so they would be known as generous. Today, people do not sound a trumpet to project the image of generosity, but they still know how to call attention to their giving. There aren’t good examples in ancient literature of people actually announcing their giving with the sound of a trumpet. It may be what Jesus had in mind was the gifts given during feast times, which were signalled by the blast of a trumpet. These occasions afforded golden opportunities for ostentation. Yet the idea of doing a charitable deed – giving alms and charity – was deeply established in the Jewish mind. To give alms and to be righteous were one and the same thing. To give alms was to gain merit in the sight of God and was even to win atonement and forgiveness for past sins. Such performers are rightly called hypocrites, because they are actors, acting the part of pious, holy people when they are not. It is not having a standard that makes someone a hypocrite; it is falsely claiming to live by that standard when you in fact do not, or when you have a double standard that makes one a hypocrite. Jesus tells the one who gives so he can hear the applause of others that he should enjoy the applause, because that will be all the reward that he will receive. There will be no reward in heaven for the one who did it for the motive of an earthly reward. It would be better to translate it: “They have received payment in full.” Instead, our giving is to be – if it were possible – even hidden from ourselves. Though we cannot really be ignorant about our own giving, we can deny ourselves any indulgent self-congratulation. “Keep the thing so secret that even you yourself are hardly aware that you are doing anything at all praiseworthy. Let God be present, and you will have enough of an audience.”
If someone finds out that we have given something, do we automatically lose our reward? The issue is really a matter of motive. If we give for our own glory, it doesn’t matter if no one finds out and we will still have no reward from God. But if we give for God’s glory, it doesn’t matter who finds out, because your reward will remain because you gave for the right motive. Jesus pointed out the great value of doing good deeds for the glory of God. It is much better to receive our return from God, who rewards much more generously and much more openly than men do. We should ever remember that the eye of the Lord is upon us, and that he sees not only the act, but also every motive that led to it. We should not miss the strength of the promise – these things done the right way will certainly be rewarded. We can be sure of that, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
4.0 EXAMPLES OF THE WRONG KIND OF PRAYER AND THE RIGHT KIND OF PRAYER
In Mathew 6: 5-6 we read, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Jesus assumed that His disciples would give, so He told them the right way to give (Matthew 6:1-4). He also assumed that His disciples would pray, and it was important that they not pray in the same manner as the hypocrites. There are no dumb children in God’s house; the least he hath can ask him blessing. All are not alike gifted, but every godly man prayeth unto thee, saith David, Psalm 32:6. There were two main places where a Jew in Jesus’ day might pray in a hypocritical manner. They might pray at the synagogue at the time of public prayer, or on the street at the appointed times of prayer (9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m.). In synagogue worship someone from the congregation might be asked to pray publicly, standing in front of the ark. Prayer was not normally practiced at the street corners, but…one who strictly observed the afternoon hour of prayer could deliberately time his movements to bring him to the most public place at the appropriate time. These hypocrites prayed not to be heard by God, but to be seen by men. This is a common fault in public prayer today, when people pray to impress or teach others instead of genuinely pouring out their hearts before God. Such prayers are an insult to God. Again, those praying to be seen of men have their reward, and they should enjoy it in full – because that is all they will receive. There is no reward in heaven for such prayers. Rather, we should meet with God in our room (or “closet”). The idea is of a private place where we can impress no one except God. Jesus certainly did not prohibit public prayer, but our prayers should always be directed to God and not towards man.
5.0 THE RIGHT WAY TO PRAY
In Matthew 6: 7-8 we read, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” The right kind of prayer does not use vain repetitions, which is any and all prayer which is mostly words and no meaning; all lips and no mind or heart. One can pray long – but to the wrong god. In 1 Kings 18:26 the prophets of Baal cried out, “O Baal answer us” for half the day. In Acts 19:34 a mob in Ephesus shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two hours. The true God isn’t impressed by the length or eloquence of our prayers, but the heart. Prayer requires more of the heart than of the tongue. The eloquence of prayer consists in the fervency of desire, and the simplicity of faith. When we try to impress God with our many words, we deny that God is a loving, yet holy Father. Instead, we should follow the counsel of Ecclesiastes 5:2: God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore, let your words be few. Christians’ prayers are measured by weight, and not by length. We don’t pray to tell God things that He didn’t know before we told Him. We pray to commune with and appeal to a loving God who wants us to bring every need and worry before His throne. Prayer is not designed to inform God, but to give man a sight of his misery; to humble his heart, to excite his desire, to inflame his faith, to animate his hope, to raise his soul from earth to heaven, and to put him in mind that there is his Father, his country, and inheritance.
6.0 THE MODEL PRAYER
In Matthew 6: 9-13 we read, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil.” The right kind of prayer comes to God as a Father in heaven. It rightly recognizes whom we pray to, coming with a privileged title that demonstrates a privileged relationship. It was very unusual for the Jews of that day to call God “Father” because it was considered too intimate. It is true that God is the mighty sovereign of the universe who created, governs, and will judge all things – but He is also to us a Father. He is our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. When we say, “in heaven,” we remember God’s holiness and glory. This is a prayer focused on community; Jesus said, “Our Father” and not “My Father.” The whole prayer is social. The singular pronoun is absent. Man enters the presence of the Father, and then prays as one of the great family. There is no evidence of anyone before Jesus using this term to address God. The right kind of prayer has a passion for God’s glory and agenda. His name, kingdom and will have the top priority. Everyone wants to guard their own name and reputation, but we must resist the tendency to protect and promote ourselves first and instead put God’s name, kingdom and will first. Jesus wanted us to pray with the desire that the will of God would be done on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven there is no disobedience and no obstacles to God’s will; on earth there is disobedience and at least apparent obstacles to His will. The citizens of Jesus’ kingdom will want to see His will done as freely on earth as it is in heaven. A man can say, “Your will be done” in different ways and moods. One might rightly wonder why God wants us to pray that His will would be done, as if He were not able to accomplish it Himself. God is more than able to do His will without our prayer or cooperation; yet He invites the participation of our prayers, our heart, and our actions in seeing His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The right kind of prayer will freely bring its own needs to God. This will include needs for daily provision, forgiveness, and strength in the face of temptation. When Jesus spoke of bread, He meant real bread, as in the sense of daily provisions. God does care about everyday things, and we should pray about them. The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time, reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few days’ illness could spell tragedy. Sin is represented here under the notion of a debt, and as our sins are many, they are called here debts. God made man that he might live to his glory and gave him a law to walk by; and if, when he does anything that tends not to glorify God, he contracts a debt with Divine Justice. Temptation literally means a test, not always a solicitation to do evil. God has promised to keep us from any testing that is greater than what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). God, while he does not ‘tempt’ men to do evil (James 1:13), does allow his children to pass through periods of testing. But disciples, aware of their weakness, should not desire such testing, and should pray to be spared exposure to such situations in which they are vulnerable. If we truly pray, lead us not into temptation, it will be lived out in several ways.
Jesus gave His disciples a model for prayer, prayer marked by close relationship, reverence, submission, and trust and dependence. Since Luke 11:2-4 has much the same material, it is reasonable to believe that this was not the only time Jesus taught His disciples on this subject. In contrast with ostentatious prayer or thoughtless prayer, Jesus gives his disciples a model. But it is only a model: “This is how [not what] you should pray.”