The Law of Growth, by Louis A. Dole

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“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” – Luke 6:38

Readings

Leviticus 26:1-13 · Luke 6:20-38 · Psalm 96

Sermon

We read here the law of both natural and spiritual, earthly and heavenly increase. It is the law of effort, labor, giving. What we thus give will be restored with increase. The measure we use will return to us overflowing, pressed down, shaken together, running over.

But it must be not only effort, but useful effort. The law of natural increase demands not only labor, but useful labor; while the law of spiritual increase requires the love of the use of such labor.

Many so-called “charities” tend to idleness and poverty. One of the truest material gifts which man can bestow upon the community is the promotion of useful activity.

We can pervert this law of useful effort and make it a purely selfish appeal by performing uses in order to get ahead of others, to make a name for ourselves. But there is a better way, namely to use our knowledge and abilities not to get ahead of someone else but to promote the welfare of the community. Spiritual giving has two sides: first the inward gift which everyone who seeks in his own life to follow the highest ideal of living unconsciously bestows on the whole community, and secondly the outward and conscious and direct efforts which one makes to lead people to see and to accept the truth. When we seek to be of spiritual help to others, spiritual growth follows, both personal and general, growth in spiritual intelligence, love, and life.

The first effect of spiritual effort in bringing the teachings of the church to others is seen in the results upon those who make the effort. They grow in their love for these truths, and in their intelligence and capacity of imparting them. Sometimes people look upon the faith of the church as something too profound or too great for one not specially trained to attempt to explain. But clear thought on any subject comes with the effort to make it clear to others. So it is with the effort to impart spiritual truth. At the very least it brings to the surface the knowledge of one’s deficiencies, and this points the way to their correction.

It is true that the teachings of the New Church are so profound and so tremendous in their claim to be a revelation which will bring in a new age on the world that it is difficult to speak of them in their broadest aspects. But it is within the power of us all, especially when a way of approach has been opened by trials and suffering, to speak to friends or acquaintances of those particulars of our faith which we ourselves have found clear, satisfying, or helpful. If we are watchful for such opportunities to be of spiritual service, we shall doubtless be led to speak in a useful manner, although we may never know or realize the effect. And it is certain that the result upon ourselves will be greater love, greater efficiency. The effort we make to give to others returns to us in greater measure – “pressed down, shaken together, running over.” Our spiritual capital is increased by effort. The Lord’s spirit unites with it. There is a surplus and a growth within.

Today there is much concern about the growth of our church. The law for its growth is given in our text. It depends upon not one or two but upon all of its members. If all cannot give materially, all can give spiritually. Everyone should have a clear idea of the purpose for which the church exists, and should enter into that purpose. Then there will be growth in every direction – upwards in love and wisdom, downward in material prosperity, and in breadth by numerical increase.

Political economy dwells upon the two vital factors in material prosperity, namely, capital and labor. Capital is nothing without labor, while labor without capital is unproductive. Capital, whether public or private, without the employment of labor would shrink and shrink until it would almost disappear. Compare America in the time of Columbus with America now. In 1492 the materials of wealth – the real capital – were all here: the coal, iron, precious metals, the forests, the broad lakes, the fertile soil. But labor was lacking. A few glass beads and hatchets would buy a township or a county. The Indians were not wholly lacking in worldly wisdom. It was a fair trade to them. It was about all that it was worth while labor and effort were lacking. They were not willing to work, and the white men were.

The secret of the fall of the ancient cities and kingdoms – Nineveh, Assyria, Babylon – on the material side was not fire, nor flood, nor foe, nor even the destruction of wars, but the cessation of labor. Today it is the same. Nations whose people will not study and work will give place to others. There are no exceptions to this law in heaven or on earth. Idle individuals, under our present system, may sometimes be sustained in this world by the labors of others; but when useful or productive labor, labor which is really giving, ceases for any length of time in a community, the result is stagnation or death. There is no place in heaven or earth for idleness. Idleness means deterioration and annihilation.

Apply this to the church. Its capital is its truths. In them we have an immense treasure, absolutely inexhaustible. These truths explain and expand human life. They bring light. They set men free. The world needs them. We do print books and put them in libraries. But is our work then done? Capital without labor is unproductive. A vital part of the labor in this case consists in the believers applying the new teachings in their own lives and motives. But another part consists in the private and individual effort to impart them to others – to give to others. According to the loving effort of Newchurchmen to be of service to others through friendly sympathy and through the attempt to bring to them the church’s specific teachings to meet their conditions and needs will be the growth of the church in love, wisdom, and power, as well as in numbers. As we give, so shall we individually and collectively receive. It is the combination of friendly interest in others with the truth itself that wins. If then it is asked, “to whom can I be of service in this way?” one answer is: to friends and acquaintances and sometimes to strangers. Not that we ought to strive to impress even upon friends the matter of belief unless the way opens. The indifferent or satisfied ones are not to be coerced. Argument is usually of little use. But if one is on the watch to be of real service, the way will frequently open. And then again those who come here among us as strangers, often come needing and seeking help, seeking answers to deep questions of the heart as well as of the intellect. We should not treat them as strangers and pass them by. How little we know of what is going on in the human heart, especially when that heart feels alone or neglected, and the world seems cold, indifferent, selfish, or self-centered.

True missionary effort in the church does not consist in merely persuading people to think as we do, but in giving what we have for their help to lead them to the Master. Those who come among us inwardly seeking light may not yet have formulated their own questions or their own longings, doubts, and difficulties. What is needed first of all is concern for their welfare. All should be neighbors, all should be friends whenever there is opportunity to be of service.

And what can we give them beside our interest and sympathy? The answer is: that which we ourselves have found clear, helpful, or encouraging, especially that which will set the mind free from darkness, narrowness of vision, and fear, and furnish an ideal of life worth living for.

Particularly we have above all the central teaching of our church concerning the Lord, His coming on earth to overcome our spiritual foes and set us free; then the law by which the Bible is to be understood, so that it harmonizes with our Savior’s love; then the certainty of the life after death, and the certainty that everyone will find his place in that life according to what he has inwardly and freely chosen here.

The appeal of the New Church is not the same as that of the first Christian dispensation, and the message is different. It is primarily to the reason, the understanding, and thence to the heart and life. The new truth does not destroy the message of the Bible, but deepens it and removes the errors and misinterpretations in which men have enshrouded it, so that it is preserved and adapted to the rational needs of a maturer age of human development. It is a profounder Christianity in both faith and life.

We should speak with conviction but not with a sense of superiority or pride, and in the spirit revealed in the life of the Lord – the love of giving of itself to others. And when the Divine Life is received by men, they will take unceasing delight in giving the church of their time, thought, strength, and substance.

Amen

Read the original sermon in PDF format

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