Task 16 ~ Being Useful


We hear a lot about the work ethic and how, in a sense, we rebel against it. People sometimes say, “I am a human being, not a human doing.”

I think that in the past people tended to measure each other too much in terms of what they were doing. If you weren’t doing something, then you didn’t have any worth.

We would like to talk about this idea from the other side, which is that we really are here to serve. That is what life is all about.

With our advanced technology, it is possible for people to go through life being mostly receivers and not givers. Many people have adopted a passive role in life. Part of us is lazy and wants to have things given to us and delivered for our pleasure.

Do you ever feel like you just want to lie down for two or three days? What happens to your body if you lie down for three days? It gets weak! If you want to get really sick, lie down for a month. The body loves to be used.

When we use our minds or bodies to their full extent, we are the most god-like. After all, the center of the universe is life-giving. It is energy that goes out to create and serve. In his writings, Emanuel Swedenborg teaches that the whole of heaven is organized into the form of one human being known as the Universal Human, and also the Body of Christ. Each angel has a function in this Universal Human; so the angels identify themselves according to their use.

Swedenborg says that angels live a useful life. They find their greatest joy in being useful, and that is heavenly happiness. This idea stands in stark contrast to the idea that after you die, your eternal happiness comes from living in a type of retirement home forever. Some people have the idea that there is nothing to do but enjoy ourselves! But how many of us could stand that kind of life? There is something that drives us to a life of service.

Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus did something very dramatic with the disciples. They were at a meal, the Last Supper. At the end of the meal, he got up and washed the disciples’ feet. He asked them, “Who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?”

They answered that it was the person who sits at the table because he can afford to pay the person who serves. Jesus answered, “But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

So the only reason we exist is to make a contribution to the lives of others. We are here to give and not just to get.

The point of this week’s task is to have a reminder each day to expend effort to get outside yourself and make a contribution to others. That contribution can take a variety of forms. It can be a simple external thing; it can be a phone call or just listening to someone.

There are so many ways we can make a contribution. We just have to remind ourselves that this is what life is all about. Swedenborg writes that all the senses of the body depend on being used in order to have any fun. Like the sense of touch—it is when you use your hands that you get the fun of touch. Or it is when you use your eyes that you get the fun of seeing. So the joy is in the use, in the function.

I experience some of my greatest love when I have forgotten myself in a task that is totally absorbing. The joy is in being of value to someone else.

Task 16 ~ Life is a vast and complex system of functions, each person serving others and being served by others. Each human being is part of this marvelous system of interlocking functions. We are here to benefit from the system. We are also here to serve the system. Do something extra to remind yourself that you are a contributing member of the human race.

Do at least one thing this week that takes you out of concern for yourself, to concern for the welfare of others.