March 03, 2009

Voluntary Sharing

My husband and I recently prepared a talk on the Baha'i Faith. We consulteda lot on how to put together a powerpoint presentation. It soon became obviously clear that it was difficult to keep the presentation short and brief with regard to the principles, the purpose, the history, and most importantly the spiritual significance of the Writings. We looked all through the online websites which offer a magnificent and beautiful portrayal of the Faith. I also used the Ocean search engine to find all of Abdu'l-Baha's speeches about the Faith of Baha'u'llah. They inspired and helped us tremendously. When it came time to decide what to keep and what to leave out at this time for the purpose of this presentation, however, my heart was struggling about what was most important or significant to convey. It was drawn like a magnet to this one teaching which isn't often among the first principles explained to people who have never heard of Baha'u'llah:

"...among the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is voluntary sharing of one's property with others among mankind. This voluntary sharing is greater than equality, and consists in this, that man should not prefer himself to others, but rather should sacrifice his life and property for others. But this should not be introduced by coercion so that it becomes a law and man is compelled to follow it. Nay, rather, man should voluntarily and of his own choice sacrifice his property and life for others, and spend willingly for the poor..." (Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith - Abdu'l-Baha Section, p. 288)

This teaching makes my heart beat fast in an impatient sort of way as I desperately long for the people of the world to begin to wholeheartedly prefer others before themselves in an economic manner. When we reflect on the lives of Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha and the Guardian as the truest examples of servitude unto others and thriftiness in all the use of their means, we see a completely different standard of conducting one's affairs and usage of time and substance.

In every country of the world, some to lesser or greater degrees, there exists the extremes of wealth and poverty. This extreme extends deep into every area of life, denying those without opportunities of a good education and fair housing a part in the building of a new and spiritual civilization, while denying those with all the privileges of wealth and opportunities passed down through the generations a part in contributing to the welfare and prosperity for all. As a Baha'i I know that this principle will not be embodied in the world unless the love for Baha'u'llah and the reality that we are all truly one beats within the innermost chambers of the heart...but it will become a reality in its fullest transformative capacity as more people respond to this glorious Cause.

This principle, just one of so many, is so powerful, so revolutionary, and so potent that it makes me profoundly humble to call myself a follower of Baha'u'llah and His Teachings. It is particularly powerful because Baha'u'llah didn't make it a law whereby it must be enforced by coercion. In this Day of God, the pure and generous-hearted soul must offer itself without being forced by law to do so. It is a spiritual principle that transcends the outward guidelines of the necessary laws which govern individuals' lives and society in general. I am still at a loss to describe it adequately enough...

Dash and I noticed during the presentation that the audience was quite interested in this teaching. In a land where the remnants of apartheid linger abundantly in how most people still live their lives, we could see the Word of God for this Day touching those whose hearts were ready to let it take root.

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