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Would God Forgive An Adulterer?

 

Recently someone asked me if God would forgive an adulterer.  I answered:  Absolutely! There isn’t any sin too big for God.

The Revelator is thereby over all preceding commands, as is shown when Jesus said to the woman that was a sinner, who bathed His Feet, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” although the sin of adultery, according to the law of Moses, was one of the gravest.  (Compilations, Baha’i Prayers 9, p. 61)

All we have to do is ask. He loves us so His mercy exceeds His fury!  Once we’ve been forgiven, our sins are washed away!

Wherefore, hearken ye unto My speech, and return ye to God and repent, that He, through His grace, may have mercy upon you, may wash away your sins, and forgive your trespasses. The greatness of His mercy surpasseth the fury of His wrath, and His grace encompasseth all who have been called into being and been clothed with the robe of life.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 130)

Having said that, adultery is a serious offense that retards the progress of the soul in the after life:

When we realize that Bahá’u’lláh says adultery retards the progress of the soul in the after life — so grievous is it . . . we see how clear are our teachings on these subjects.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 345)

It will, in the future, be punishable by a fine in this world, and humiliating torment in the next:

God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice: nine mithqals of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offence. Such is the penalty which He Who is the Lord of Names hath assigned them in this world; and in the world to come He hath ordained for them a humiliating torment.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 37)

The purpose of the law is to expose the offenders so they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society:

God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice # 49  Although the term translated here as adultery refers, in its broadest sense, to unlawful sexual intercourse between either married or unmarried individuals (see note 36 for a definition of the term), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has specified that the punishment here prescribed is for sexual intercourse between persons who are unmarried. He indicates that it remains for the Universal House of Justice to determine the penalty for adultery committed by a married individual. (See also Q and A 49.)  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 200)

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to some of the spiritual and social implications of the violation of the laws of morality and, concerning the penalty here described, He indicates that the aim of this law is to make clear to all that such an action is shameful in the eyes of God and that, in the event that the offence can be established and the fine imposed, the principal purpose is the exposure of the
offenders — that they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society. He affirms that such exposure is in itself the greatest punishment.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 200)

The House of Justice will (in the future) determine the penalty for adultery committed by a married individuals:

Although the term translated here as adultery refers, in its broadest sense, to unlawful sexual intercourse between either married or unmarried individuals (see note 36 for a definition of the term), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has specified that the punishment here prescribed is for sexual intercourse between persons who are unmarried. He indicates that it remains for the Universal House of Justice to determine the
penalty for adultery committed by a married individual. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 200)

There are two reasons which come to mind as to why Baha’u’llah didn’t determine penalty for adultery committed by a married individual, as He did with other crimes like arson and murder:

1) If people were to learn about the severity of the punishment at this stage, it would become a major obstacle for many to accept the Faith.

2) The Universal House of Justice at present has no civil power to impose the punishment. If we remember that in at least two past Dispensations the punishment of adultery committed by married people was death by stoning, we tremble at the gravity of the problem, as Baha’u’llah explains in the Kitab-i-Iqan:

Yea, in the writings and utterances of the Mirrors reflecting the sun of the Muhammadan Dispensation mention hath been made of “Modification by the exalted beings” and “alteration by the disdainful.” Such passages, however, refer only to particular cases. Among them is the story of Ibn-i-Suriya. When the people of Khaybar asked the focal center of the Muhammadan Revelation concerning the penalty of adultery committed between a married man and a married woman, Muhammad answered and said: “The law of God is death by stoning.” Whereupon they protested saying:  “No such law hath been revealed in the Pentateuch.” Muhammad answered and said: “Whom do ye regard among your rabbis as being a recognized authority and having a sure knowledge of the truth?” They agreed upon Ibn-i-Suriya. Thereupon Muhammad summoned him and said: “I adjure thee by God Who clove the sea for you, caused manna to descend upon you, and the cloud to overshadow you, Who delivered you from Pharaoh and his people, and exalted you above all human beings, to tell us what Moses hath decreed concerning adultery between a married man and a married woman.” He made reply: “O Muhammad! death by stoning is the law.” Muhammad observed: “Why is it then that this law is annulled and hath ceased to operate among the Jews?” He answered and said: “When Nebuchadnezzar delivered Jerusalem to the flames, and put the Jews to death, only a few survived. The divines of that age, considering the extremely limited number of the Jews, and the multitude of the Amalekites, took counsel together, and came to the conclusion that were they to enforce the law of the Pentateuch, every survivor who hath been delivered from the hand of Nebuchadnezzar would have to be put to death according to the verdict of the Book. Owing to such considerations, they totally repealed the penalty of death.” Meanwhile Gabriel inspired Muhammad’s illumined heart with these words: “They pervert the text of the Word of God.”[1] [1 Qur’án 4:45.]  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 84)

It’s better to be punished in this world, because if we are, God won’t punish us again in the next world:

As to the question regarding the soul of a murderer, and what his punishment would be, the answer given was that the murderer must expiate his crime: that is, if they put the murderer to death, his death is his atonement for his crime, and following the death, God in His justice will impose no second penalty upon him, for divine justice would not allow this.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 179)

God does forgive everyone who asks! For those who sincerely want to change, He’s already forgiven us because he knows our intent.

We have assured forgiveness of sins, as known in the presence of the Best Beloved and in conformity with what Thou desirest. Verily His knowledge embraceth all things. (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 54)

Not only does he forgive us, but he doesn’t want us to worry about our sins; but to be confident that we’ve been born anew from his forgiveness:

We have attired his temple with the robe of forgiveness and adorned his head with the crown of pardon. It beseemeth him to pride himself among all men upon this resplendent, this radiant and manifest bounty. Say: Be not despondent. After the revelation of this blessed verse it is as though thou hast been born anew from thy mother’s womb. Say: Thou art free from sin and error. Truly God hath purged thee with the living waters of His utterance in His Most Great Prison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 77)

For this gift, He wants us to teach His Faith as a way to strengthen us from further temptation in this area.

We entreat Him—blessed and exalted is He—to graciously confirm thee in extolling Him and in magnifying His glory and to strengthen thee through the power of His invisible hosts. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 77)

Also, adultery is NOT the worst sin. Backbiting is the “most great sin” and lying is the “most odious”. Remember, He’ll even forgive Covenant-Breakers!

It is important to note that should a Covenant-breaker recognize his mistakes, become conscious of his transgressions against the Cause of God and find the urge to repent, the Centre of the Cause, when satisfied he is sincerely repentant, will forgive his past deeds and restore his credibility and status as a Bahá’í in good standing in the community.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 240)

I think it’s much harder to forgive ourselves, though . . . We love Bahá’u’lláh and want to do the right thing, but it’s hard when we live in a society whose behaviour is so at variance with the Faith.

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances . . . are hard to understand and obey at first.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights Of Guidance, p. 343)

The House of Justice asks us to point out that the recognition of the Manifestation of God is but the beginning of a process of growth and that as we become more deepened in the Teachings and strive to follow His principles, we gradually approach more and more the perfect pattern which is presented to us. Bahá’u’lláh recognizes that human beings are fallible. He knows that, in our weakness, we shall repeatedly stumble when we try to walk in the path He has pointed out to us.   (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

The key is to be patient with ourselves:

We must be patient with others, infinitely patient, but also with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair . . . He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 456)

In the meantime, there’s a big elephant in the room between us and our spouse who we betrayed.  Do we tell our spouse that we’ve been unfaithful?

The spiritual principle that comes to my mind is:

Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 22)

Let’s consider what this means:  first of all it’s the foundation of everything else.  This means you can’t have love without truthfulness; you can’t have trust without truthfulness; you can’t have friendliness, compassion, understanding, support, encouragement, patience or any of the other things you want from your spouse without truthfulness.  The bottom line is you can’t have a relationship without truthfulness.

Secondly, without truthfulness, you can’t have any progress for yourself or in your relationship without truthfulness.  You won’t have success at work, in your finances, in your friendships, or in any other area of your life without truthfulness, and worse, when you die, you won’t be able to make progress either.  So truthfulness is very important.

Two other quotes which come to mind on this same topic are:

Consider that the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil, is lying. No worse or more blameworthy quality than this can be imagined to exist; it is the destroyer of all human perfections and the cause of innumerable vices. There is no worse characteristic than this; it is the foundation of all evils.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 215)

I love this quote because it says “the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes” is lying and it’s hard to imagine any infidelity that hasn’t been covered up with lies.

Lying destroys all human perfections.  This is what we’ve learned in the quotes about truthfulness.  Only this quote goes further.  Above we learned that no progress or success will be made without truthfulness; so that we can’t develop any of the virtues without it.  In this quote, it says that it destroys all human perfections:  so think of all the things you want from your relationship:  love, forgiveness, support, compassion, encouragement etc, and imagine each one of them being destroyed because of your lies.

The next quote takes it even further:

If the sum of all sins were to be weighed in the balance, falsehood would, on its own, countervail them; nay its evils would even outweigh them and its detriment prove greater.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Trustworthiness, p. 12.)

That’s a pretty powerful image, and good reason for being truthful with your spouse, no matter how difficult or how distressing the consequences.

And another quote in the same vein:

Again: be ye most careful that, God forbid, not one single word contrary to truth issue from your mouths. One falsehood throws man from the highest station of honour to the lowest abyss of disgrace. Always guard yourselves against this enemy so that all you state may correspond with reality. Forever supplicate and entreat at the Court of Majesty and beg confirmation and assistance….  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 213)

This quote means you can’t tell white lies; you can’t rationalize; you can’t speak anything that’s less than 100% truthful, if you don’t want to fall into disgrace with God and society.  And then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells you what you can do:  pray fervently.

Chances are good that your spouse already knows or suspects your infidelity.

When we find truth, constancy, fidelity, and love, we are happy; but if we meet with lying, faithlessness, and deceit, we are miserable.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 65)

Ask yourself:  is she happy or miserable?  She may not know the reason for her misery on a conscious level; and when you talk to her truthfully she might not at first be happy.  She has every right to react unkindly:

Kindness cannot be shown the tyrant, the deceiver, or the thief, because, far from awakening them to the error of their ways, it maketh them to continue in their perversity as before. No matter how much kindliness ye may expend upon the liar, he will but lie the more, for he believeth you to be deceived, while ye understand him but too well, and only remain silent out of your extreme compassion.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 158)

Over time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá promises that when she finds truth, constancy, fidelity, and love, she will be happy.  It will take awhile for her to regain trust, and feel confident in your love.  It will only come when she sees that you are constant in your fidelity.  All 4 virtues need to be met for her to be happy, but it starts with truthfulness.

Obviously every person’s situation is unique, which is why the Faith doesn’t set precedents in anything.  Every situation is considered separately.

After reading the above quotes, it seems self-evident to me, but of course in the end, it’s entirely between you and God, and in that sense, it’s a case by case decision.

Does it make any difference if technical adultery was not committed but betrayal through unchaste acts was porn viewing or going to strip clubs?

This is the standard:

We have directed all in the nights and in the days to faithfulness, chastity, purity, and constancy; and have enjoined good deeds and well-pleasing qualities.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 46)

If you betray your spouse through unchaste acts, you are not being faithful to her, because your sexual energy is engaged with other women.  You are not achieving the standard of purity because you are having impure thoughts focused on someone else; and you aren’t being constant by being faithful to her alone.

Does the degree of offence even matter with regards to ‘confessing’ to spouse. 

I don’t think there’s a “degree of offense” except for lying (which as we saw, is the most odious of sins).  The following quote suggests that all the sexual sins are equal:

Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. It calls for the abandonment of a frivolous conduct, with its excessive attachment to trivial and often misdirected pleasures. It requires total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs. It condemns the prostitution of art and of literature, the practices of nudism and of companionate marriage, infidelity in marital relationships, and all manner of promiscuity, of easy familiarity, and of sexual vices. It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age. (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29)

How do you have this conversation with your spouse? 

Obviously it won’t be easy; perhaps it will even be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says you have to be kind with the truth.

Be kind in truth, not only in appearance and outwardly. Every soul of the friends of God must concentrate his mind on this, that he may manifest the mercy of God and the bounty of the Forgiving One.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 216)

I love the following quote, because it gives you something concrete you can do:

If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 315)

So how do you “behold ‘Abdu’l-Bahá standing before your face”?  Before every difficult interaction, where I want to invite ‘Abdu’l-Bahá into the process, I say the Tablet of Visitation for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (in the back of your prayer book).  In the introduction to this prayer it says:

Whoso reciteth this prayer with lowliness and fervor . . . it will be even as meeting Him face to face.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 232)

The following guidance from the House of Justice might give you some more insights:

The Master advises the members to “take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise”. He affirms that:

This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should any one oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions…

It is important to note that truth emerges after the “clash” of carefully articulated views (which may well be expressed with enthusiasm and vigour), not from the clash of feelings. A clash of feelings is likely to obscure the truth, while a difference of opinion facilitates the discovery of truth.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá provides the following advice concerning the manner in which views should be expressed in the course of consultation. It is suggested that this guidance could also pertain to the expression of feelings:

They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden…  (The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Feb 7, Issues concerning community functioning)

What this suggests to me is that you choose your time carefully, go into the discussion prayerfully and be moderate in how long your discussion will last (don’t let it go on for a long time).  Give her time to absorb what you have said, and come back for a second discussion where you can discuss rationally where you will go from here, determined to not take offense to anything she might say; and focused on finding a decision you can both live with, in unity.

As impossible as this might seem, with prayer, God can make sure you have a discussion which will lead to the healing of your relationship.

The husband of a very dear friend of mine had an affair with her best friend over 20 years ago.  He was honest, and they were able to work it through so that today they have a very healthy marriage, so I know it can be done.

Isn’t this confessing our sins to others, as implied by the following quote?

The sinner, when his heart is free from all save God, must seek forgiveness from God alone. Confession before the servants (i.e. before men) is not permissible, for it is not the means or the cause of Divine Forgiveness. Such confession before the creatures leads to one’s humiliation and abasement, and God—exalted by His Glory—does not wish for the humiliation of His servants. Verily He is Compassionate and Beneficent. The sinner must, between himself and God, beg for mercy from the Sea of Mercy and implore pardon from the Heaven of Forgiveness. (Bahá’u’lláh, Glad Tidings, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 84-85)

Yes, that’s right:  We ask God’s forgiveness and tell our spouse out of honesty and not expecting she has the power to forgive our transgression.  Shoghi Effendi clarifies the difference:

We are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 178)

God forgives anyone, anything, at any time!  All you have to do is ask, and He will not only forgive them, but change them to good deeds!

Thy generous Lord will . . . forgive thee thy sins and change them to good deeds. Verily the Lord is the Forgiving, the Merciful  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 89)

How do you ask?  First make sure you are severed from everything save God, then turn to Him in prayer, then accept the consequences (His Will).

He would advise her to turn her thoughts determinedly and intelligently — by that I mean unemotionally — to God, realising that He is forgiving, that in one moment He can, through His Blessed Mercy, take away our sense of failure and help us to do better in the future — if we sincerely wish to; to turn to Him in prayer and seek to draw closer to Him; and to accept His Will and submit her own desires and opinions to His Wish and plan for her.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

Here are some prayers you can say:

Cast, then, upon me, O my God, the glances of Thy mercy, and forgive me my trespasses and the trespasses of them that are dear to Thee, and which come in between us and the revelation of Thy triumph and Thy grace. Cancel Thou, moreover, our sins which have shut off our faces from the splendors of the Day-Star of Thy favors. Powerful art Thou to do Thy pleasure. Thou ordainest what Thou willest, and art not asked of what Thou wishest through the power of Thy sovereignty, nor canst Thou be frustrated in whatsoever Thou prescribest through Thine irrevocable decree. No God is there save Thee, the Almighty, the Most Powerful, the Ever-living, the Most Compassionate.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 337)

Forgive me, O my Lord, my sins which have hindered me from walking in the ways of Thy good-pleasure, and from attaining the shores of the ocean of Thy oneness.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 29)

Now that you’ve said them, you can trust that it is done!  And go forward into the future, determined not to walk down those roads again:

God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 219-220)

What does God want from us (other than not breaking His laws in the first place)?

A careful study and reflection on the Bahá’í Writings will give you many insights into this question.

Reflect a while, and consider how they who are the loved ones of God must conduct themselves, and to what heights they must soar. Beseech thou, at all times, thy Lord, the God of Mercy, to aid them to do what He willeth.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 243)

As you know, the standards are very high!

It is an infinitely high standard and anything short of it will in the eyes of those who really count prove piteously negligible and utterly futile.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 377)

All that’s expected of us is that we strive.

Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble . . . This is the work of a true Bahá’í, and this is what is expected of him. If we strive to do all this, then are we true Bahá’ís.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 80)

You might find the following articles of assistance:

Lower Nature

Thoughts

Temptation (6 part series – make sure to read them all)

Resisting Temptation

Have you heard of the Bahá’í Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addictions and Abuse (BNASAA)?  Click here to see their website    They run conferences every year, where you can find a safe place to discuss your problem and find solutions based in the Writings.  If you watch the videos, they aren’t typical of a BNASAA weekend – they were specific to the 20th anniversary.  You might find it very helpful if you could go to a conference.

How has this helped you understand this issue?  Have you ever struggled with infidelity?  What experiences can you share with others?  Post your comments here:

 

The Process of Change

I first heard this story in a group for Adult Children of Alcoholics, nearly 25 years ago, and was delighted to find it again tonight.  If you aren’t familiar with it, I hope you enjoy it!  If you are, I hope you enjoy reading it again.

 

An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

A poem by Portia Nelson that appears in Claudia Black’s book. Repeat After Me

I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in

I am lost . . . I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in . . . it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

 

 

Why I don’t Want to be Wealthy

 

As we learned in the previous blog posting, the Bahá’í Writings tell us the poor are “very dear to God”; “the mercies and bounties of God are with them”; they are “never forgotten” and they are “nearer the threshold of God”.

The mercies and bounties of God are with them. The rich are mostly negligent, inattentive, steeped in worldliness, depending upon their means, whereas the poor are dependent upon God, and their reliance is upon Him, not upon themselves. Therefore, the poor are nearer the threshold of God and His throne.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)

This is particularly appealing to someone like me, who doesn’t feel loved by any of the significant people in her life (parents, siblings, spouses or children).  I want to know that someone I can trust loves me!  If that keeps me poor, then so be it!

I can see where people might be confused on this issue.  On the one hand, we read quotes such as these, which suggest that we need wealth, acquired through crafts or professions:

Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable and praiseworthy in the estimation of men of wisdom.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)

And that if you want wealth, the secret is to engage in crafts and professions:

Thus it is incumbent on every one to engage in crafts and professions, for therein lies the secret of wealth, O men of  understanding! For results depend upon means, and the grace of God shall be all-sufficient unto you.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 281)

And that we have an obligation to expend our wealth on ourselves and our families (in that order):

The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Persian 82)

On the other hand, you don’t want to have too much wealth, because the rich are described in negative terms:

The rich are mostly negligent, inattentive, steeped in worldliness, depending upon their means . . . (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)

Wealth is described as a “mighty barrier” between us and God:

Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved.   (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 53)

Very few rich people attain the court of God’s presence, or are content and resigned:

The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation.   (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 53)

God hasn’t promised mansions to those who associate with the rich:

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. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)

As long as there are poor people, those with colossal wealth should not exist:

A financier with colossal wealth should not exist whilst near him is a poor man in dire necessity.

Excessive of wealth is associated with tyranny:

A financier with colossal wealth should not exist whilst near him is a poor man in dire necessity. When we see poverty allowed to reach a condition of starvation it is a sure sign that somewhere we shall find tyranny. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 153)

According to the Writings, their wealth has been found by “idle fancy” and they don’t know how to be self-sacrificing:

In idle fancy they have found the door that leadeth unto earthly riches, whereas in the manifestation of the Revealer of knowledge they find naught but the call to self-sacrifice. They therefore naturally hold fast unto the former, and flee from the latter.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Ian, p. 28)

Having wealth can prevent you from entering the Kingdom of Heaven:

. . . riches do prevent the rich from entering the Kingdom; and again, He saith, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.’ If, however, the wealth of this world, and worldly glory and repute, do not block his entry therein, that rich man will be favoured at the Holy Threshold and accepted by the Lord of the Kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 195)

If the wealthy are able to use their wealth in service to God, it is highly meritorious.  I’m not sure how many of us are able to attain this level of generosity, self-sacrifice and detachment, as we’ve seen in previous quotes, so it’s better for us to avoid it:

If wealth and prosperity become the means of service at God’s Threshold, it is highly meritorious; otherwise it would be better to avoid them.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)

When you’re poor, you need to rely on God to supply your needs and be patient.  There’s a lot more obligation and responsibility on those who are wealthy:

Fear the sighs of the poor and of the upright in heart who, at every break of day, bewail their plight, and be unto them a benevolent sovereign. They, verily, are thy treasures on earth. It behoveth thee, therefore, to safeguard thy treasures from the assaults of them who wish to rob thee. Inquire into their affairs, and ascertain, every year, nay every month, their condition, and be not of them that are careless of their duty.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 236)

Men must bestir themselves in this matter, and no longer delay in altering conditions which bring the misery of grinding poverty to a very large number of the people. The rich must give of their abundance, they must soften their hearts and cultivate a compassionate intelligence, taking thought for those sad ones who are suffering from lack of the very necessities of life. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 153)

He should be . . . bestowing a portion upon the destitute, and not refusing benevolence and favor to the unfortunate. (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)

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. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)

Good God! is it possible that, seeing one of his fellow-creatures starving, destitute of everything, a man can rest and live comfortably in his luxurious mansion? He who meets another in the greatest misery, can he enjoy his fortune? That is why, in the religion of God, it is prescribed and established that wealthy men each year give over a certain part of their fortune for the maintenance of the poor and unfortunate. That is the foundation of the religion of God, and the most essential of the commandments.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 283-284)

Those who are wealthy should use their wealth as a means to draw close to God, instead of being so attached to their wealth that they forget God and His commandments:

If they are wealthy, they should make these bestowals a means of drawing nigh unto God’s Threshold, rather than being so attached to them that they forget the admonitions of the Pen of the Most High.   (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)

If they don’t, wealth will lead to destruction:

Turn to the Book of the Covenant, the Hidden Words, and other Tablets, lest the cord of your salvation become a rope of woe which will lead to your own destruction.   (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437-438)

Once men acquire wealth, it’s easy to become so bewitched by their newly amassed wealth and status that they forget the true meaning of their lives; and they forget God.  Look what happens as a result:

How numerous are those negligent souls, particularly from among your own compatriots, who have been deprived of the blessings of faith and true understanding. Witness how, no sooner had they attained their newly amassed wealth and status, than they became so bewitched by them as to forget the virtues and true perfections of man’s station. They clung to their empty and fruitless lifestyle. They had naught else but their homes, their commercial success, and their ornamental trappings of which to be proud. Behold their ultimate fate. Many a triumphal arch was reduced to a ruin, many an imperial palace was converted into a barn. Many a day of deceit turned into a night of despair. Vast treasures changed hands and, at the end of their lives, they were left only with tears of loss and regret. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 438)

The wealthy have to protect their treasures and worry about someone stealing them:

Others ere long will lay hands on what ye possess, and enter into your habitations. Incline your ears to My words, and be not numbered among the foolish.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 260)

Would that the inhabitants of the world who have amassed riches for themselves and have strayed far from the True One might know who will eventually lay hand on their treasures; but, by the life of Bahá, no one knoweth this save God, exalted be His glory.  (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 171)

I knew someone who didn’t have a lot, but he was still afraid of losing it.  He wanted to have a home alarm system installed on his house, even though he lived in a tiny village where everyone knew each other and the crime rate was almost zero.  I couldn’t imagine living with this level of fear, suspicion and mistrust.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells a similar story:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá told a story about a Persian believer’s journeys and how he could not sleep at night while in the wilderness for fear of someone stealing his new shirt, a new gift from a prominent person. After several sleepless nights he decided to get rid of the shirt so he could relax.  (Rafati, Vahid, Sources of Persian Poetry in the Bahá’í Writings, Vol. lll, p. 80)

Wealth is fleeting and has no lasting effect:

How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now?  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)

They attained to wealth, to the comforts of life, to fame. And what was the final outcome? Utter evanescence and oblivion. Reflect upon this. Look upon it with the eye of admonition. No trace of them remains, no fruit, no result, no benefit; they have gone utterly — complete effacement.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

Look what happens to someone who wrote to Baha’u’llah begging for wealth and prosperity:

Haji Muhammad-Baqir was a well-known merchant, foremost among the believers in faith, certitude and enthusiasm, and was serving the Cause with devotion and self-sacrifice.  This man attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad. There He wrote a letter to Him and begged for wealth and prosperity. In answer, this exalted and wonderful Tablet was revealed for him. In it Bahá’u’lláh stated that his request would be granted and that the doors of prosperity and wealth would be opened for him from every direction. He warned him, however, to be on his guard and not to allow riches to become a barrier and make him heedless.  Now you are here to attain the presence of Bahá’u’lláh and in the future you will witness that this man will be overtaken with fear to such an extent that he will renounce God and His Cause. Not long after, he will make substantial losses, following which he will write a letter to Bahá’u’lláh and repent. God will then turn his losses into profit and he will become again highly successful in his business and will emerge as the foremost merchant in Constantinople and Tabriz. However, this time he will wax prouder than before, more heedless and deprived… This time he will lose all his possessions, will be unable to continue trading and will become helpless in arranging his affairs. It is then that he will repent and return, and will be content to live as a poor man. He will spend the days of his life in the service of the Cause of God. His end will be blessed and he will receive great confirmations from God.’ He then said to me: ‘Remember all these things, for they will come to pass, and you shall witness them.’  (Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, v2, p. 277-278)

Knowing this in advance, do you think you’d change your mind?  I know I would!

This doesn’t mean I’m always able to be grateful for my poverty, or that I am always free from anxiety about how my bills are going to be paid, so I find this quote reassuring:

The lives of the Founders of our Faith clearly show that to be fundamentally assured does not mean that we live without anxieties.  (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

Fortunately there’s another way of thinking about wealth.  In this dispensation it is described by the excellence of his conduct, in love of God and in detachment from luxuries.

Man’s distinction lieth in the excellence of his conduct and in the pursuit of that which beseemeth his station, not in childish play and pastimes. Know that thy true adornment consisteth in the love of God and in thy detachment from all save Him, and not in the luxuries thou dost possess. (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 62)

Now that’s a kind of wealth I can be comfortable with!

 

For more on this theme:

Does God want us to be Wealthy

When is Enough, Enough

Avoiding Temptation

 

Many of us struggle with thoughts and feelings we don’t recognize as coming from our lower nature, so we can’t change them.  But when we know that they are “sins”, and can recognize them as they arise, and ask God for His forgiveness, we can rid ourselves of them.

Here are some quotes you can memorize, to help you recognize the truth, so that when one of these idle thoughts raises their ugly heads, you’ll have some ammunition to conquer them:

Abandonment Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 13)
Anger Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Antagonism (means rivalry, resentment, ill will) Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)
Anxiety O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 151)
Apathy (means indifference, boredom, laziness, lack of concern) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Ponder and reflect. Is it thy wish to die upon thy bed, or to shed thy life-blood on the dust, a martyr in My path, and so become the manifestation of My command and the revealer of My light in the highest paradise? Judge thou aright, O servant!  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 46)
Approval Seeking . . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)
Argue The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.  (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
Attachment to the material world For attachment to the world has become the cause of the bondage of spirits, and this bondage is identical with sin . . . It is because of this attachment that men have been deprived of essential spirituality and exalted position.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 123)
Avarice (Greed) He should be content with little and free from avarice  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)
Bitterness When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm!   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)
Boasting The children of God do the works without boasting, obeying His laws . . . This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 17)
Contention (means argument, debate, controversy) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . contention . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)The worldwide undertakings on which the Cause of God is embarked are far too significant, the need of the peoples of the world for the Message of Bahá’u’lláh far too urgent, the perils facing mankind far too grave, the progress of events far too swift, to permit His followers to squander their time and efforts in fruitless contention. Now, if ever, is the time for love among the friends, for unity of understanding and endeavor, for self-sacrifice and service by Bahá’ís in every part of the world.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)
Corruption But as these people failed to turn wholly unto God, and to hold fast to the hem of His all-pervading mercy at the appearance of the Daystar of Truth, they passed out from under the shadow of guidance and entered the city of error. Thus did they become corrupt and corrupt the people. Thus did they err and lead the people into error. And thus were they recorded among the oppressors in the books of heaven.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 40)
Covetousness Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 50)
Cruelty The domestic animals do not manifest hatred and cruelty toward each other; that is the attribute of the wild and ferocious beasts. In a flock of one thousand sheep you will witness no bloodshed. Numberless species of birds are peaceful in flocks. Wolves, lions, tigers are ferocious because it is their natural and necessary means for obtaining food. Man has no need of such ferocity; his food is provided in other ways. Therefore it is evident that warfare, cruelty and bloodshed in the kingdom of man are caused by human greed, hatred and selfishness.          (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 24)
Deception (means trickery, fraud, con) Any form of intrigue, deception, collusion and compulsion must be stopped and is forbidden.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 12)
Depression Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed! Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Bahá’, so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 557)
Dishonesty Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of dishonesty . . . in carrying out his duties, or unlawfully exact money from the people, be it even a singe penny, or secure private gains for himself, or seek personal benefits, such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)
Dispute Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 279)
Dissension (means opposition, rebellion, conflict) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)
Doubt Know thou of a certainty that thy Lord will come to thine aid with a company of the Concourse on high and hosts of the Abhá Kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)
Envy Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savors of holiness breathing from My kingdom of sanctity.(Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 6)
Estrangement (means rift, separation) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . estrangement . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Reflect ye as to other than human forms of life and be ye admonished thereby: those clouds that drift apart cannot produce the bounty of the rain, and are soon lost; a flock of sheep, once scattered, falleth prey to the wolf, and birds that fly alone will be caught fast in the claws of the hawk. What greater demonstration could there be that unity leadeth to flourishing life, while dissension and withdrawing from the others, will lead only to misery; for these are the sure ways to bitter disappointment and ruin.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 278)
Fanaticism (means extremeism) The source of all these catastrophes is racial fanaticism, patriotic fanaticism, religious fanaticism and political fanaticism. The source of these fanaticisms is ancient imitations, religious imitations, racial imitations, patriotic imitations, and political imitations. As long as following such imitations persists, the very foundation of humanity is wrecked and the world of man is in great jeopardy.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Letter to Martha Root)
Fear Let the fear of no one dismay thee. Trust in the Lord, thy God, for He is sufficient unto whosoever trusteth in Him. He, verily, shall protect thee, and in Him shalt thou abide in safety.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 60)
Gluttony In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation; if the meal be only one course this is more pleasing in the sight of God; however, according to their means, they should seek to have this single dish be of good quality.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)
Gossip I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine Wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)
Greed Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 127)
Guilt Commit not, O people, that which will bring shame upon you or dishonor the Cause of God in the eyes of men, and be not of the mischief-makers. Approach not the things which your minds condemn. Eschew all manner of wickedness, for such things are forbidden unto you in the Book which none touch except such as God hath cleansed from every taint of guilt, and numbered among the purified.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 277-278)
Hatred I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 29)
Haughtiness (means conceit, pride, self-importance) Put away the garment of vainglory, and divest yourselves of the attire of haughtiness.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 47)
Holding grudges . . . that if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Bahá’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 436)
Hypocrisy It is also essential to abstain from hypocrisy and blind imitation, inasmuch as their foul odour is soon detected by every man of understanding and wisdom.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 1)
Ignorance Man must free himself from the weeds of ignorance, thorns of superstitions and thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible, contention and divergence of religious belief will always remain and mankind, like ferocious wolves will rage and attack each other in hatred and antagonism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)
Imitation Man must free himself from the . . . thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)
Injustice If a man does a great injustice to another in his life, then, after his death, his son will be despised for having had such a father and in some cases the injury might be so serious that the effect would reach to the grandson, etc., or a man may, by wrong living, fall into consumption and give that disease to his children unto the third or fourth generation.  “Both physically and mentally the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the children.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká 1979 ed., pp. 45-46)
Isolation Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behoveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fire.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 49)
Jealousy Jealousy consumeth the body . . . avoid [it] as you would a lion.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Judgmentalism Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 62)
Laxity (means carelessness, sloppiness) Should anyone, God forbid , . . . show laxity . . . in carrying out his duties . . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)All of them, be they men or women, must, at this threatening hour when the lights of religion are fading out, and its restraints are one by one being abolished, pause to examine themselves, scrutinize their conduct, and with characteristic resolution arise to purge the life of their community of every trace of moral laxity that might stain the name, or impair the integrity, of so holy and precious a Faith.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29)
Loneliness There is no harm in thy loneliness in those regions; for verily, the hosts of confirmation are thy help, thy Glorious Lord is thy protector and the angels of the Kingdom are thy fellow-speakers. Glad-tidings be unto thee for this! Blessed art thou for this!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 61)
Love of luxury and comfort All physical perfections come to an end; but the divine virtues are infinite. How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God – poor people who had neither fortune nor position – are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)
Lust Bahá’u’lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encourage us to keep our “secret thoughts pure”.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 364)
Malice For malice is a grievous malady which depriveth man from recognizing the Great Being, and debarreth him from the splendors of the sun of certitude. We pray and hope that through the grace and mercy of God He may remove this mighty obstacle. He, verily, is the Potent, the All-Subduing, the Almighty.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 96)
Materialism You see all round you proofs of the inadequacy of material things — how joy, comfort, peace and consolation are not to be found in the transitory things of the world. Is it not then foolishness to refuse to seek these treasures where they may be found? The doors of the spiritual Kingdom are open to all, and without is absolute darkness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)
Negativity You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá’ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)
Negligence (careless, inattention) Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of . . . negligence in carrying out his duties . . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)But alas! man is not grateful for this supreme good, but sleeps the sleep of negligence, being careless of the great mercy which God has shown towards him, turning his face away from the light and going on his way in darkness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 20)
Obstinacy (means stubbornness, pig-headedness, inflexibility) By my life, you are created for love and affection and not for hatred and obstinacy.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 190)
Passion (means obsession, rage) We must reach a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from Him. All the time we see people who either through the force of hate or the passionate attachment they have to another person, sacrifice principle or bar themselves from the path of God.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 512)
Perfectionism We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)
Prejudice If we allow prejudice of any kind to manifest itself in us, we shall be guilty before God of causing a setback to the progress and real growth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. It is incumbent upon every believer to endeavour with a fierce determination to eliminate this defect from his thoughts and acts.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 529)
Pride As to him who turneth aside, and swelleth with pride, after that the clear tokens have come unto him, from the Revealer of signs, his work shall God bring to naught.   (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 60)
Self desire Verily, those who withhold themselves from the shelter of the Branch are indeed lost in the wilderness of perplexity; and are consumed by the heat of self-desire, and are of those who perish.  (Baha’u’llah, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 205)
Self hatred and self pity O ye roses in the garden of God’s love! O ye bright lamps in the assemblage of His knowledge! May the soft breathings of God pass over you, may the Glory of God illumine the horizon of your hearts. Ye are the waves of the deep sea of knowledge, ye are the massed armies on the plains of certitude, ye are the stars in the skies of God’s compassion, ye are the stones that put the people of perdition to flight, ye are clouds of divine pity over the gardens of life, ye are the abundant grace of God’s oneness that is shed upon the essences of all created things.  On the outspread tablet of this world, ye are the verses of His singleness; and atop lofty palace towers, ye are the banners of the Lord. In His bowers are ye the blossoms and sweet-smelling herbs, in the rose garden of the spirit the nightingales that utter plaintive cries. Ye are the birds that soar upward into the firmament of knowledge, the royal falcons on the wrist of God.  Why then are ye quenched, why silent, why leaden and dull?   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)
Selfishness But if he show the slightest taint of selfish desires and self love, his efforts will lead to nothing and he will be destroyed and left hopeless at the last.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 71)
Strife (means conflict, friction, rivalry) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . strife . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Bahá, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13)
Suspicion Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)
Tyranny O ignorant one that hath been shut out as by a veil from God. Thou hast clung to tyranny, and cast away justice; whereupon all created things have lamented, and still thou art among the wayward . . . By God! The things thou possessest shall profit thee not, nor what thou hast laid up through thy cruelty. Unto this beareth witness thy Lord, the All-Knowing.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 102)

Resisting Temptation

After I posted my 6 part series on Temptation, I listened to a talk given by my favorite Pastor, Jeremy McClung of Muskoka Community Church.   This material was inspired by his talk.

When we invite God into our lives, he starts to work on us.  We become His Divine Restoration project, as He helps us to start resisting sins, especially those we fall into again and again (perhaps anger, lust, materialism, pride, low self esteem, anxiety, worry, doubt).  We can build on this relationship with Him by asking Him over and over again to release us from these things, andit takes mental discipline to resist temptation.

There are several steps we can take to resist temptation:

1.  Admit we can’t resist it but God can.  We need to admit our powerlessness over temptation, so He can provide an escape route.  Each morning, we can look at the day ahead of us, anticipating the potential temptations that could befall us, and ask God to protect us from both the ones we can foresee and the ones that might blindside us.

2.  Include God in the moment of temptation.  We often forget to ask God for help in the moment or worse, we avoid God because we know we’re going to do something wrong.  By avoiding Him, we cut off our escape route, and even worse, our shame and guilt separates us from God.

3. Resist your lower nature.  Life often conspires against you to lead you off the path.  When we begin to align with the will of God, He’ll send tests to strengthen us.  We often focus our anger at the wrong person.  For example in marriage we often think the other partner is the enemy, but when we stop blaming each other and recognize that our lower natures may be battling with each other, it’s easier to find your way back to unity.  God’s given us a free will, and allows us to make choices.

4.  Identify the lie: Our lower nature lies to us, often in a very convincing way, so the key to battling temptation is to identify the lie.  We’re not in a battle between good and evil but between truth and a lie.  The lie is when we think there are no consequences for going against the things God wants us to do.  Perhaps you’ll recognize some of these:

  • More is better!
  • You can pay it off at the end of the month
  • You can start your diet tomorrow.
  • Next time I’ll do that service project.
  • If nobody sees it’s OK.
  • Everybody else is doing it so it must be OK.
  • I just need to vent.
  • I need this (addiction to TV, alcohol, busywork, shopping)

5.  Understand the lie:  Our lower nature attacks us at our most vulnerable points, often quoting the Writings at us, so it’s important to have many quotes memorized so we can know which one applies to us.  For example, one year I was really sick during the fast, but fasted anyway.  I could recite this quote to prove that I was doing a noble thing and that it was right to be fasting:

In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God.

My lower nature prevented me from seeing the rest of the very same quote, and I was forever grateful to the loving soul who brought it to my attention:

It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. All praise be unto God, He who hath sent down the verses and is the Revealer of undoubted proofs!  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 134)

6.  Battle with the lie: We can convince ourselves of the truth as much as we want in our minds, but when we’re in the middle of temptation, everything is out of whack and we no longer think correctly.  It’s easy to change our minds, especially if other people are telling us it’s OK.  Their values aren’t often right!  We need to know a truth we can count on, and that comes from the Writings.  Imagine how different things would be if in the moment of temptation, we had something we could cling to as the one last solid thread; something we know is true.    God gave us His Writings so we’d have the tools we need, but we need to memorize them so we can call on them when we need them the most.

From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 200)

We should memorize the Hidden Words, follow the exhortations of the Incomparable Lord, and conduct ourselves in a manner which befitteth our servitude at the threshold of the one true God.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 196)

The next time you fall into temptation, don’t come at it with willpower and resolve, but recognize the lie, come at it with truth and with the quotes you’ve memorized.

What is temptation?

Today we’re starting a 6 part series on Temptation.  Hope you enjoy it!

First of all, we need to realize that we are all tempted and we are all sinners, so this article is for everybody:  those whose sins are invisible to others and those whose sins are punishable from society.  They’re all the same in God’s eyes:

Each man has been placed in a post of honour, which he must not desert. A humble workman who commits an injustice is as much to blame as a renowned tyrant. Thus we all have our choice between justice and injustice.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 159-160)

According to the dictionary, temptation is “something that tempts, entices, or allures”.  In the Bahá’í Faith, we understand that temptation is initiated through the pathway of thought, arising out of our lower nature, and it often leads us into actions (sin) that creates misunderstanding.  We know we are being tempted, when the thoughts we’re having don’t reflect God’s nature.

For example, let’s say you have a friend who’s just been given a beautiful bracelet, which you think is beautiful and looks really well on her wrist.  But instead of rejoicing in her success (higher nature), envy, jealously and lust take root in your thoughts, and now you don’t like her because she’s got it and you don’t.  Perhaps in your anger and bitterness, you start spreading gossip about her in the community, putting distance between you and your friend.

Or perhaps someone teases you.  Feeling hurt, you take offence, which causes you to withdraw from Bahá’í activities, thinking you are preserving unity in the community.  You ruminate on the comment over and over again, eventually noticing that your friend gets to go to all the Bahá’í functions while you’re missing out.  This leads to resentment, jealousy, bitterness and hatred.  It all started because we believed a lie emanating from our lower nature, which agreed with the hurtful comment.  It’s that subtle, and that common.

We’re often tempted by our thoughts.  When we get a thought, it creates an impression inside of us, then a feeling and then we take action, thinking it’s what we need to do, without asking ourselves the origin of the thought.

The strength in temptation is real – the feelings, thoughts, desires are all very strong passions, and distressing to those of us who know God.  We wonder what that means about our faith.  Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali tells an interesting story of his own spiritual awakening and struggles.  He talks about going from excitement about learning about the Faith, to doubt, to torment, to steadfastness and back into torment.  In this case, the temptation was to doubt what he knew to be true.  Perhaps you can identify with it:

In the early days of the Faith in Isfahan, when I began to study the Tablets and Writings of the Báb, and listen to the explanations of the friends, I found the proofs of His Revelation convincing and conclusive and the testimonies supremely sound and perfect. So I was assured in myself that this Cause was the Cause of God and the Manifestation of His Grandeur, the dawning of the Day-Star of Truth promised to be revealed by the Almighty. But when I was alone with no one to talk to, I was often overtaken with doubts. The idle fancies of my past life, and the whisperings of the evil one were tempting me… God knows how much I wept and how many nights I stayed awake till morning. There were days when I forgot to eat because I was so immersed in my thoughts. I tried by every means to relieve myself of these doubts. Several times I became steadfast in the Cause and believed, but later I would waver and become perplexed and dismayed.  (Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, v2, p. 197)

God gives us a standard to reach for:

And were they to pass through a valley of pure gold and mines of precious silver, they should regard them as wholly unworthy of their attention.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 59-60)

But it’s hard to get there, because avoiding temptation is often hard to bear:

It is easy to approach the Kingdom of Heaven, but hard to stand firm and staunch within it, for the tests are rigorous, and heavy to bear.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 274)

Especially when the standards of the world are at variance with the laws of God:

As you point out, it is particularly difficult to follow the laws of Bahá’u’lláh in present-day society whose accepted practice is so at variance with the standards of the Faith.   (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality)

Fortunately the House of Justice understands how difficult it can be and gives us a new way of thinking about our struggle:

The Universal House of Justice understands the concern you feel upon discovering that the Faith includes teachings . . . which differ so markedly from your own views. This discovery may best be regarded not as a challenge to your faith in Bahá’u’lláh but rather as an opportunity for you to acquire a deeper understanding of the Bahá’í teachings and their implications.  (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality)

Bahá’u’lláh tells us that we were created to bear and endure:

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Ahmad, Baha’i Prayers, p. 218)

Though it often feels like we’re at the breaking point, God has promised never to give us more than we can handle:

But we are aware of the assurance which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has given the believers that they will never be called upon to meet a test greater than their capacity to endure.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

And we can take some comfort when we realize that only those whose faith has been tested can bear it:

Our Cause is sorely trying, highly perplexing; none can bear it except a favorite of heaven, or an inspired Prophet, or he whose faith God hath tested.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 82)

There’s no room for compromise:

It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age.  (Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30)

To none is given the right to question their words or disparage their conduct, for they [the Prophets of God] are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments . . .  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 80-81)

Sometimes avoiding temptation can impose hardships.  For example, I was once in a relationship with a person I wasn’t married to, and we owned a house together.  As I was trying to extricate myself from the relationship, I needed to sell my interest in the house at a time when the market had dropped.  I lost $40,000 . . .

Obedience to the Laws of Bahá’u’lláh will necessarily impose hardships in individual cases. No one should expect, upon becoming a Bahá’í, that faith will not be tested, and to our finite understanding of such matters these tests may occasionally seem unbearable. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

. . . AND I’ve never had to face that particular test again!

Sometimes we even get angry with God for putting temptation into our heads.  We don’t want these idle thoughts, but we don’t know how to rid ourselves of them.  Thinking we can do it by ourselves, only leads to arrogance and pride.  Only God can help us.  He understands how we turn away from Him, and He reminds us that He is the only one who can protect us:

This is the Day of mutual deceit; whither do ye flee? The mountains have passed away, and the heavens have been folded together, and the whole earth is held within His grasp, could ye but understand it. Who is it that can protect you? None, by Him Who is the All-Merciful! None, except God, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Benefi­cent.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 45-46).

Since we’re already mad at God, and questioning our faith and even the validity of His laws, it’s easy to see how we think we might as well act on it.  Separation from God makes it easier to do things we don’t want to do.  But we know that “turning from God inevitably brings disaster, and turning to God as inevitably brings blessings.”  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 95)

Sometimes it’s easy to trick yourself into believing that you aren’t tempted to do any of the “big” sins, so temptation doesn’t apply to you.  You don’t want to fall into this trap and flee into denial because it only leads to perversity:

Whatever in days gone by hath been the cause of the denial . . . hath now led to the perversity of the people of this age.   (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 17-18).

For example during World War 2, the Nazis measured the nose and eyes to show that the Jews were a different people.  In Rwanda when they were killing Tutsis they did the same thing. In this case, their denial of the oneness of humanity, led to the genocide that followed.

Instead we want to look temptation in the face, acknowledge its existence and turn towards God:

Shall we not flee from the face of denial, and seek the sheltering shadow of certitude?  Shall we not free ourselves from the horror of satanic gloom, and hasten towards the rising light of the heavenly Beauty?   (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 38)

Because there are rewards for doing so:

Please God, that we avoid the land of denial, and advance into the ocean of acceptance, so that we may perceive, with an eye purged from all conflicting elements, the worlds of unity and diversity, of variation and oneness, of limitation and detachment, and wing our flight unto the highest and innermost sanctuary of the inner meaning of the Word of God.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 160)

I hope you’ll let me know what you think of these ideas, and then continue on to the next few articles, as I explore this topic more fully.

 

In part 2, we look atThe Steps of Temptation Leading to Sin

In part 3, we look at The Ways in Which we are Tempted

In part 4, we look at Why We are Tempted

In part 5, we look at Things We Can Do When We are Tempted

In part 6, we look at:  The Consequences of Temptation and How to Prevent It