Saturday, July 29, 2006

Treasures in Heaven

I don't write or talk much about the service I do. I don't even think about it much. It is just something I do, like so many other people out there. But there is one thing that is fast becoming a pet peeve and that is being assured of “treasures in Heaven,” or some other kind of post-life reward for doing things here.

This is a common belief in Christianity, but I always saw it as either a persuasive rhetorical device, or in the worst case, selling someone less than a bill of goods. Pay now and find out what your going to get, and get it, so much later that you will be “the late” when it happens. In this case I don't object to buying on the disincarnation plan so much as the whole notion of buying anything. The idea of quid pro quo itself is deeply offensive.

This isn't the surface defensive ego offensiveness that we have come to almost exclusively associate with the term: what we might more clearly call being personally offended. No this is not just deeper but isn't personal, it isn't against the person but rather against the relationship.

Turning those wonderful opportunities to actually help someone into transactions of that far distant kind takes attention away from the value that lies in the relationship itself. Within the relationship is the transaction that matters, and it is a very human one. It isn't gratitude, it isn't recognition—it is what makes us truly human. It is an expression of love, but not personal love, not love of someone in particular. But rather the love that is the deep connection between all of us.

As human beings we are drawn out of the existential loneliness that is our condition, through this connection, to others. When we truly connect with one another, that bond is there. 'I' becomes 'we' for a time. A deep communion can happen.

The Epistle of John tells us that God is love, and that where love is, there is God. When we have the privilege to connect with those whose need makes them vulnerable, we can be vulnerable as well. And together, this temporary 'we' can accomplish a things for 'us.' In this, benefits for 'I' don't enter in.

This is why we serve. Not for an imaginary treasure in an imaginary heaven. But for the real treasure that lies in the heaven we touch together.


Sir Francis said...

Can't run it down but I *think* it was the current Dalai Lama that spoke of distinguishing between "foolish" and "wise" selfishness, the former manifest as doing good deeds out of self-interest or give-to-get vs. the latter where one does good things for the selfish pleasure that is visited on the *doer* of the deed, either as the good vibes of the recipient or simply decreasing the "body of fear" in one's immediate environment and so incrementally in the world. (Agreed: Do-gooding as salvation brownie points is loathsome.)

What I've been trying to do more of just lately is to be mindfully in the moment as much of the time as I can (including *boring* situations like supermarket checkouts), especially when with other beings -- friends, strangers, animals, whatever -- and trying to look for various small ways to be helpful, where appropriate. (If one doesn't do service in the present moment, than when?) As someone who in his earlier days badly lacked social skills, I can say emphatically it *really* makes my days when I can get smiles & laughs from strangers, wet kisses from friendly dogs I never met before etc. Perhaps these days especially, just signaling to others that one isn't default-mode afraid / distrustful of them increases people's, and the world's, karmic merit.

'Fess up, Rev, it *feels good*, don't it?

(As Merton once said, "Saints are what they are not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others, but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everyone else." Or if you prefer, not because we see the God in them but because they see the God in us.)

Anonymous said...

There is a writing in "The Gnostic Bible" by whom, I do not recall, but it goes like this... Love never says THIS is MINE, or THAT is MINE. Love ALWAYS says "All of these are yours."

That touched me deeply. And to be selfless, even when one is in a state where one cannot wisely afford to be selfless is the most freeing and liberating act that can be demonstrated.
To vicariously give without even the thought of any reward be it here or in heaven is almost an act of defiance given the greed and "what's in it for ME" way of life that prevails today.

I challenge myself every day to, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, " Use the weapon of love."

Most days my humanity gets in the way and I fall short of love in every situation. BUT those days when I open myself up to selflessness..even "foolish selflessness" is when I feel truly free and closer to my true home and my spiritual parents.