“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Mosiah 1:49 RAV, 2:17 OPV
In Kabbalah, there is a focus on moving away from Ego towards godly altruism. The essence of not just Mormon Kabbalah, but every form of Kabbalah is “love thy neighbor as thyself,” the second greatest commandment as taught by Jesus (Leviticus 19:18, 33-34). Kabbalist teacher Rav Akiva taught that loving others as we love ourselves is the purpose of all spiritual teachings and the very heart of our spiritual work. Altruism, to the Kabbalist, isn’t just giving, it is serving others; it’s not just a hand out, it is a help up. And, it is more than what we do or what we give, there is a focus on the how and the why as well.
He that hath Two Coats
When I was younger, I attended a Latter-day Saint congregation on OSU campus. Every autumn people would come to college for the first time, many from out of state. Inevitably there would be those that came without winter coats. Remembering the teaching of Jesus to give people the coats off our backs, I not only opened my closet gifting coats, but because of my financial disposition I bought a number of coats and jackets in various sizes for people to choose from (Luke 3:11).
I thought rather highly of myself for doing this. And, my pride and Ego were rewarded with a boost to my own self worth. One night while I was praying the voice of the Lord came to me, chastising me for what I was doing. He reminded me that two of my coats were still hidden in my bedroom closet. When I offered coats to those in need, I didn’t offer either of my favorite coats. The Lord asked me where His sacrifice was. He reminded me to serve Him, rather than myself when offering the coats.
Going forward, when I knew someone was coming over for a coat I made sure my favorite two were also in the closet. Being a collector of coats, it was very painful for me, knowing that I might lose one of my two favorite jackets. The Lord blessed me in two ways; first, I learned a very valuable lesson. When we serve, when we give, it should hurt a little. If it doesn’t hurt a little we are feeding Ego. When it hurts a little it is a sacrifice to the Lord. Second, no one took either of the two I favored. God didn’t need me to give them up, merely to be willing to do so.
Impart to Him that hath None
Small acts of service can do great things. Small nudges can help those in need economically, physically, socially, or spiritually. Saying “hello” to a stranger, or calling a friend or family member can be just as, or even more, effective than dolling out money for good causes. Humans are social creatures. Our needs are greater than mere food and shelter, though these are clearly needs as well. The dignity and respect of those in need should always be kept.
This is why the how is so important. When we give to feed Ego, we are building ourselves up at the risk of tearing others down. This is not true altruism. True service comes from within and is a sacrifice to the Lord. Joseph Smith Jr. taught us that “love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons [and daughters] of God.”
True service comes from a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should pray for the Lord to guide us to those in need that we can help, and to guide others to those in need that we cannot help. If you’re not there yet, that’s okay-keep giving, the Lord will get us there. His Grace will perfect our offerings as we grow into true altruism. That’s His gift to us, he takes our weakness and perfects them into strengths. True altruism pours out from our kli, it is Tikkun Olam and with God at our side, we can repair the world, one soul at a time.
“The Lord God showeth us our weakness, that we may know that it is by his grace and his great condescensions unto the children of men that we have power to do these things.” -Jacob 3:8 RAV, 4:7 OPV