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‘Abdu’l-Bahá never let anyone take advantage of Him.

When giving out money, He had people with Him to regulate the crowds:

During this time this friend of the poor has not been unattended. Several men wearing red fezes, and with earnest and kindly faces, followed him from the house, stood near him and aided in regulating the crowd, and now, with reverent manner and at a respectful distance, follow him away. When they address him they call him “Master.” (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

He liked discipline and order, so they could pass by Him one by one:

They crowd up a little too insistently. He pushes them gently back and lets them pass him one by one.   (Myron Henry Phelps and Bahiyyih Khanum, Life and Teachings of Abbas Effendi)

His helpers made sure that everyone passed on as soon as they’d received money from Him:

The men accompanying Him kept order in great kindness, but firmness, and saw that each passed on as soon as he had received from the Master.   (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)

He kept a record of those who He gave to because He did not wish to be abused:

He gave where He felt it was merited and kept a record of the recipients.  He did not wish to be abused.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 76)

If He knew someone was just lazy, He would turn them away and reprimand them:

Once in a while we would see Him send some one away empty-handed and He would reprimand him for his laziness.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)

He called everyone His friends, but those who attempted to deceive Him were rebuked and told where they might obtain work:

Later, while resting, the Master told Mrs. True about His friends.  ‘These are My friends, My friends.  Some of them are My enemies, but they think I do not know it, because they appear friendly, and to them I am very kind, for one must love his enemies and do good to them.’  He explained that there simply was not sufficient work in ‘Akká.  Men could do but two kinds of work:  they could fish, but the sea had been too stormy lately, or they could carry loads on their backs, which required great strength.  Those who attempted to deceive Him were rebuked and told where they might obtain work.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80)

If someone criticized a gift, He reproved them but He always gave them something else:

At one time the Master had a fine cloak of Persian wool, which had been given to Him.  When a poor man appealed to Him for a garment, He sent for this cloak and gave it to him.  The man took it but complained, saying it was only of cotton.  ‘No,’ ‘Abbas Effendi assured him, ‘it is of wool’; and to prove it He lighted a match and burned a little of the nap.  The man still grumbled that it was not good.  ‘Abbas Effendi reproved him for criticizing a gift, but He ended the interview by directing an attendant to give the man a mejidi (a coin then worth about four francs).  It was observed that if someone vexed the Master, He always gave him a gift.  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 75)

One of the most well-known story is about how ‘Abdu’l-Baha refused to be cheated by a dishonest taxi driver:

Economic justice, even in small matters, was important to the Master.  Once in Egypt ‘Abdu’l-Bahá obtained a carriage in order that He might offer a ride to an important Pasha, who was to be His luncheon guest.  When they reached their destination, the driver asked an exorbitant fee.  The Master was fully aware of this and refused to pay the full amount.  The driver, big and rough, grabbed His sash and ‘jerked Him back and forth’, demanding his unfair price.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remained firm and the man eventually let go.  The Master paid what He actually owed him and informed him that had he been honest, he would have received a handsome tip instead of only the fare.  He then walked away.  Shoghi Effendi, His grandson, was present when this happened.  He later admitted to being very embarrassed that this should have happened in front of the Pasha.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, on the other hand, was evidently ‘not at all upset’, but simply determined not to be cheated. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 109)

They took a taxi to the train station, where the taxi driver demanded more than the usual fare.  Abdul-Bahá ignored him, saying, “A man may give $1000 without minding it, but he should not yield even a dollar to the person who wishes to take it wrongfully, for such wrongful behavior flouts justice and disrupts the order of the world.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 190)

He Gave Advice to the Poor

He reminded them to give thanks for the things they have been given, sometimes in His talks:

So, my comrades, you are following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Your lives are similar to His life; your attitude is like unto His; you resemble Him more than the rich do. Therefore, we will thank God that we have been so blessed with real riches. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 34)

Sometimes through stories:

The Master sometimes made His points through telling stories.  Julia Grundy recorded the following story of His:  ‘A master had a slave who was completely devoted to him.  One day he gave the slave a melon which when cut open looked most ripe and delicious.  The slave ate one piece, then another and another with great relish (the day being warm) until nearly the whole melon had disappeared.  The master, picking up the last slice, tasted it and found it exceedingly bitter and unpalatable.  “Why, it is bitter!  Did you not find it so?” he asked the servant.  “Yes, my Master,” the slave replied, “it was bitter and unpleasant, but I have tasted so much sweetness from thy hand that one bitter melon was not worth mentioning.”’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 167)

He Gave Even More Advice to the Rich

Baha’u’llah set the standard:

O YE RICH ONES ON EARTH!

The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 54)

To those who were suffering because of the poor, He gave this advice, which had positive effects:

Then He added, “However you must strive to overcome these feelings, do everything in your power to help, pray, then leave it with God, because the world will grow steadily much worse, and if you suffer like this you will not be able to survive.  Nevertheless his words opened the door of help to those strike sufferers, and on my return to Montréal I went to a very wealthy and prominent Irishmen there, whom I had never seen, burst into tears in his office, to his astonishment and mine, and asked him what he was going to do about it.  Well, to end the story, he headed the committee to raise a fund which we sent to Dublin through private channels in which came just in time to succour thousands of women and children.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 186-187)

He reminded them why the poor are especially beloved of God:

What could be better before God than thinking of the poor? For the poor are beloved by our heavenly Father. When His Holiness Christ came upon the earth those who believed in him and followed him were the poor and lowly, showing the poor were near to God. When a rich man believes and follows the Manifestation of God it is a proof that his wealth is not an obstacle and does not prevent him from attaining the pathway of salvation. After he has been tested and tried it will be seen whether his possessions are a hindrance in his religious life. But the poor are especially beloved of God. Their lives are full of difficulties, their trials continual, their hopes are in God alone. (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)

He reminded them of their responsibilities towards helping the poor:

Therefore you must assist the poor as much as possible, even by sacrifice of yourself. No deed of man is greater before God than helping the poor. Spiritual conditions are not dependent upon the possession of worldly treasures or the absence of them. When physically destitute, spiritual thoughts are more likely. Poverty is stimulus toward God. Each one of you must have great consideration for the poor and render them assistance. Organize in an effort to help them and prevent increase of poverty.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 36)

He reminded them through stories, that we’re all one family and have a responsibility to each other:

A Persian king was one night in his palace, living in the greatest luxury and comfort. Through excessive joy and gladness he addressed a certain man, saying: “Of all my life this is the happiest moment. Praise be to God, from every point prosperity appears and fortune smiles! My treasury is full and the army is well taken care of. My palaces are many; my land unlimited; my family is well off; my honor and sovereignty are great. What more could I want!”  The poor man at the gate of his palace spoke out, saying: “O kind king! Assuming that you are from every point of view so happy, free from every worry and sadness — do you not worry for us? You say that on your own account you have no worries — but do you never worry about the poor in your land? Is it becoming or meet that you should be so well off and we in such dire want and need? In view of our needs and troubles how can you rest in your palace, how can you even say that you are free from worries and sorrows? As a ruler you must not be so egoistic as to think of yourself alone but you must think of those who are your subjects. When we are comfortable then you will be comfortable; when we are in misery how can you, as a king, be in happiness?”  The purport is this that we are all inhabiting one globe of earth. In reality we are one family and each one of us is a member of this family. We must all be in the greatest happiness and comfort, under a just rule and regulation which is according to the good pleasure of God, thus causing us to be happy, for this life is fleeting.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 41)

He reminded them that God has many mansions prepared for servants of the poor:

He admonished all that we must be the servants of the poor, helpers of the poor, remember the sorrows of the poor, associate with them; for thereby we may inherit the Kingdom of heaven. God has not said that there are mansions prepared for us if we pass our time associating with the rich, but He has said there are many mansions prepared for the servants of the poor, for the poor are very dear to God. The mercies and bounties of God are with them.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)

He reminded them to be grateful:

Day by day friends brought offerings of flowers and fruit, so that the dinner table was laden with these beautiful tokens of love for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Whilst cutting off bunches of grapes and giving them to various guests, He talked to us of the joy of freedom, of how grateful we should be for the privilege of dwelling in safety, under just laws, in a healthy city, with a temperate climate, and brilliant light – “there was much darkness in the prison fortress of `Akka!”  (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

He reminded them to be moderate:

After His first dinner with us He said: “The food was delicious and the fruit and flowers were lovely, but would that we could share some of the courses with those poor and hungry people who have not even one.”  What a lesson to the guests present!  We at once agreed that one substantial, plentiful dish, with salad, cheese, biscuits, sweetmeats, fruits, and flowers on the table, preceded by soup and followed by coffee or tea, should be quite sufficient for any dinner. This arrangement would greatly simplify life, both as to cookery and service, and would undeniably be more in accordance with the ideals of Christianity than numerous dishes unnecessary and costly.  (Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)

He reminded them that deeds were more important than words:

Later that evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was seated with a number of visitors to whom He was saying as He laughed: ‘Assuredly give to the poor! If you give them only words, when they put their hands into their pockets they will find themselves none the richer for you.’ (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu’l-Bahá – The Centre of the Covenant, p. 177)

He made sure they understood that service to others was to be given for the sake of God and not for praise or fame:

A day or two later, Abdul-Bahá talked about charitable works: “As charitable works become praiseworthy, people often perform them merely for the sake of fame and to gain benefit for themselves, as well as to attract people’s admiration.  But this does not render needless the teachings of the Prophets because it is spiritual morals that are the cause of training one’s innate nature and of personal progress.  Thus will people offer service to one another with all their hearts for the sake of God and in order to fulfill the duties of devotion to Him and service to humanity and not for the purpose of acquiring praise and fame. (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 158)

He reminded them to see everyone, no matter how blurred or torn, as a letter from God:

“Mrs True, when you go back I want you to look at every human being and say to yourself, “you are a letter from my Beloved, and I must love you because of the Beloved Who wrote you. The letter may be torn, it may be blurred, but because the Beloved wrote the letter, you must love it.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the book, Corinne True)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá once gave the example of a soiled and crushed letter that reaches the hand of a lover from his beloved.  That letter, He said, is no less precious because of the condition in which it has arrived.  It is cherished because it has come from a loved one.  In the same way, we can learn to love a fellow man, no matter who he is, because he is God’s creature.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 96)

How has this helped you understand how you should treat the poor?  Post your comments below!