I do write on diverse religious issues, often analysing perspectives from the Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Bahá’í).
Traits of a True Believer
In a previous article, I tried to answer this simple question: Who is a believer? By reviewing Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), the article was able to highlight the importance of humility and the negative effect of exalting oneself above others.
And from Matthew 25:31-46, it was shown that the true believers of the end times would not be distinguished by their religious affiliations but by their righteous deeds and spiritual accomplishments.
In the words of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, “…it behoveth the people of truth that the signs of humility should shine upon their faces, that the light of sanctity should radiate from their countenances, that they should walk upon the earth as though they were in the presence of God and distinguish themselves in their deeds from all the dwellers of the earth.” (Gems of Divine Mysteries, #81)
In this article, we review the question from a slightly different perspective. We try to find out some of the traits of a true believer. And as in the previous article, we rely on the Christian Bible as our primary reference. (Biblical quotations are from the Authorised King James Version).
Every Human Is Unique and Different
One thing that is often missing in the arguments of worshippers is that God does not judge us all by the same standard. And this is precisely because while He created us all equal, He also created each of us unique from all others. This means we are not born with equal endowments, talents, assets, opportunities, capabilities, nor do we all have the same innate character, parentage, ethnicity, DNA, religious upbringing, etc. Every human comes into the world within a distinctive set of circumstances, different from every other human.
Parable of the Talents
And this human reality is portrayed to an extent in the Parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25:14-30. In this parable, a householder is preparing to travel and gives his three servants some assets: five talents to one, two talents to another, and one talent to the third—“to every man according to his several ability”.
And by the way, the talent of this parable is actually an ancient unit of currency, a substantial amount of money compared to today’s dollar or pound.
As with other parts of Matthew chapter 25, this parable is narrated in the context of the Second Coming. It thus offers yet another perspective of what can be expected in this day, the man on the journey being Jesus of Nazareth and his return being the occasion of the Second Coming.
What happens on the master’s return is that the one with the five talents is applauded for having doubled what he had been given to ten through trading. And so also is applauded the second servant for having doubled the two talents he had received to four. The one who is condemned is the one who was given just one talent, and the only reason for the condemnation is because he failed to add anything of value to that one talent.
What this shows is that God’s expectation for each person is different and is dependent on the opportunities and endowments received. What is not acceptable is to fail to add to one’s assets, fail to bear any fruit. So, while the servant with the highest number of talents was applauded for earning five extra talents, the gaining of two extra talents by the one with the lesser number was deemed equally commendable. Had one extra talent been earned by the one who had the least number, it would undoubtedly have also been well received.
Hence the issue of real importance for a devotee is not how much talents, graces or blessings he has received but how he has utilised them to reach new heights of spiritual attainment. God’s interest cannot lie in the amount you were given. It is never going to be the same for everyone. Rather, His interest is more in what you achieve with whatever you have received.
The Widow’s Mite
Let’s look at a practical example of this important spiritual principle. And for this, I draw your attention to an interesting episode recorded in the Gospel of Mark 12:41-44:
Jesus had gone to the Jewish temple with his disciples. From where he was seated, he could see what was going on as worshippers cast their contributions into the treasury. He saw many who, on account of being well-to-do, cast in a lot of money. But then approached a certain poor widow, and she also threw in what she had, which were just “two mites”—perhaps a couple of cents in today’s money.
On seeing the contribution from that poor widow, Jesus turned to his disciples and remarked: “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”
In other words, the spiritual quality of her contribution was far higher than all the other contributions because it came with a higher degree of sacrifice. Materially, the contribution was tiny; spiritually, it was huge.
The Superior Religion
So, when a worshipper claims that his religion is superior to others, he is in effect saying that he and his fellow believers have greater access to the blessings, graces, and bounties of God than members of other religions. Yet this can also only mean that he and his fellow believers would be judged by God to a higher spiritual standard than others. In simple language, they would be expected by God to show forth spiritual fruits in greater abundance than members of other religions. Failing this, what right would a worshipper have to claim superiority for his religion?
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required....” (Luke 12:48)
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)
The Essence of the Religions
We can see from the examples given that what is of critical importance in religious worship is the quality of our deeds, no matter how small.
Finally, let it be noted that “Hinduism,” “Judaism,” “Buddhism,” “Christianity,” “Islam,” “Bahá’í” are merely the outer names of the religions. What is of greater importance for a believer is to go beyond these names to adorn himself with the true inner spiritual essence of the religions, the part that is most pleasing to God. At that level, these outer names just fade into the background—because, according to Bahá’í teachings, the religions are essentially all one. Through diverse routes, each is calling man to the worship of the one true God.
The True Believers of This Day
So, a true believer in this day is the one endowed with—or in active search of—heavenly attributes, godly fruits, to help in the building of a new earth on the ashes of the crumbling world order. And this building of a new earth is what Bahá’ís all over the world are actively engaged in.
Revelation 21:1 states: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
And II Peter 3:13 adds: “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
While Bahá’u’lláh’s unerringly predicts: “Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead. Verily, thy Lord speaketh the truth, and is the Knower of things unseen.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, #4)
© 2021 Kobina Amissah-Fynn