By Sarah Haug
“I was so happy to see so many people show up to help the guy who lives and breathes helping others!” “He’s one of the best!” “He has a servant’s heart. We couldn’t get along without him!”
These remarks capture why some 30 friends and family gathered recently at my brother-in-law’s farm outside Colfax, Washington. It was like an old-fashioned barn-raising, except we were there to build fence. We were there, too, because my brother-in-law, described in those comments, spends his life helping others. This was a chance to return the favors.
Some people really know how to work. My brother-in-law stops working only to sleep. And eat. He has a servant’s heart—he lives to serve others. I think most of us know someone like him, someone who embodies the Baha’i Teaching that says, “Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.”
Work often means having a trade, a craft, or employment of some kind, whether in an office, as an educator, a homemaker, a tradesman, or any of a thousand occupations. It isn’t restricted.
Any way we occupy ourselves that can be of service to others is considered work. To be of service, each of us, no matter our starting point, difficulties, or natural abilities, must pursue some form of work. In turn, society has the responsibility to provide opportunity for every individual to develop and utilize her or his talents. We all have capacity to be of service to others through work of some kind, whatever that work is. And when we serve others, we worship God.
What, then, is worship? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “to honor or show reverence” to a divine being. How we do that as human beings varies across peoples and religions. Prayer and meditation are two forms of worship. They also prepare us for service. Though prayer and meditation are predominantly private in the Baha’i Faith, Baha’is do gather for communal worship. Service to others is the social act, and the one that embodies another admonition, “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.”
It isn’t that we need to work all the time. It’s rather that when we do work, we should think about it as worshipping God—and see it as “the highest form” of worship. Besides its utilitarian value, work “draws us nearer to God.”
What’s more, Baha’u’llah promises that any occupation, “is as an act of worship.” This is true, even for the rest of us who don’t always feel the “worship” part, whose minds sometimes wander during prayers or find going to work every day a slog—or run out of steam so much sooner than my brother-in-law!