I recently had the opportunity to visit Central America where I was born and try to visit often. As you can imagine, poverty is quite obvious in that part of the world and the extremes of poverty and wealth are visible every day. I was lucky enough to be able to stay in an community where the neighbours know each other, help each other and usually don’t expect anything in return. The Baha’i community is particularly happy and united and people consider each other family.
While there I spent a lot of time with friends who do not possess much materially speaking. Their radiance and joy was truly from the heart and they I can certainly say were amongst the generous both with material things as well as their time and attentions. I cannot emphasise enough how being loving and caring towards the poor is a source of joy and how our problems are so insignificant compared to what they go through. Materialism really has taken over our lives and we must be ever vigilant that we don’t get trapped in its claws.
The Baha’i writings say that blessed are the poor for their lives are full of tests and difficulties, thus their hope and trust relies entirely upon God rather than themselves.
In “The Promulgation of Peace” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said 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… the poor are very dear to 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 further reminded us that Jesus Himself was poor and those who first believed in Him and followed Him were poor as well. We can therefore see how the poor have been and are nearer to God and their souls are cleaner and more deprived of mundane attachments.
He also wrote:
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. The greatest means for prevention is that whereby the laws of the community will be so framed and enacted that it will not be possible for a few to be millionaires and many destitute. One of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings is the adjustment of means of livelihood in human society. Under this adjustment there can be no extremes in human conditions as regards wealth and sustenance. For the community needs financier, farmer merchant and laborer just as an army must be composed of commander, officers and privates. All cannot be commanders; all cannot be officers or privates. Each in his station in the social fabric must be competent; each in his function according to ability; but justness of opportunity for all.
Foundations of World unity, p.112.
I love that one of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is the abolition of the extremes of poverty and wealth and the fact that He has given us such direct and undoubtedly clear instructions is a precious gift. Let us all pray that we will live to see the day when this teaching will be made reality.