Sunday, July 9, 2017
“Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.” ― John Wesley
“Why am I here?” This question has troubled people since time immemorial. Philosophers, theologians, great thinkers—all have struggled with this and none have come up with a satisfactory answer. Douglas Adams in his book Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy says, “The Ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is . . . 42.” But he is just being funny, and he also says that we are asking the wrong question. The problem is that this is the wrong question with which to be struggling because it’s a question whose answer is only known by God--who isn’t telling. The question we should be asking is, “Since we are here, what are we to do?” There is no debate that we are here, so each of us needs to be asking ourselves what to do, what is our role in this play we call life. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism has an answer for what we are to do in the quote above. In another quote attributed to him but not found in any of his writings, he says, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Whether this is a Wesley quote or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is true for all Christians and for all good people everywhere no matter their faith or lack thereof. The words don’t tell you what job to have, where to live, or whether to marry or not. This quote is not from a career counselor or a life coach. Whoever said this (and it may well have been Wesley) is someone who knows God and what God asks of us through the life and teachings of Christ and has summarized it rather succinctly: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” You notice it does not say to do nothing but good, but to do all the good you can because we are humans and imperfect. The writer is saying to set that as our goal.
Robert Browning says “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?” Wesley, in the quote at the top and, if not Wesley, whoever wrote the other quote has told us what to try to do, what to set our sights upon, for then all the other questions about jobs, relationships, marriage, children all fall into place. It doesn’t matter what job you have, what kind of clothes you wear, whether you are young or old, married or single, you can try to do what has been proposed. It is a sad truth that pastors are hardly the most spiritual people in this world, that teachers just don’t know everything, that the rich truly don’t have all the answers, and that kings, queens, statesman and politicians have all let us down at one time or another from the beginning of time. I have always liked this quote from Gandhi, “Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.” We may never know to our own satisfaction why we are here, but we cannot fail to know that we are here, and we can never say that we don’t know what we are supposed to do while we are here because that question has been answered. Wesley is just one voice, but there are others who also have answered this question in ways from which we can all learn. In the meantime, this is what I try to do in my life, and perhaps it is what you, too, should do: do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. If you and I will attempt to do these things, the world will be a far better place and your heart will be ever at peace.