Copyright © 1993 by Lee Woofenden. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 8

Religious Devotion

123 Many people think that a spiritual life--which is the way to heaven--means religious devotion, outward holiness, and breaking our attachments to material things. But religious devotion without kindness is not a spiritual life. Nor is outward holin ess without inward holiness. Nor does the spiritual life consist of breaking our attachments to material things by detaching ourselves from the material world. Spiritual life is a genuine religious devotion that comes from kindness, an outward holiness th at comes from inward holiness, and a breaking of our attachments to material things while still being involved in the material world.

124 "Religious devotion" means thinking and talking spiritually, taking the time often to pray in a humble way, going to church regularly and listening attentively to the sermons, going to the holy supper many times each year, and following the rest o f our religion's rules about worship.

A life of kindness is wishing well toward other people and doing good things for them, and always acting with fairness and impartiality, out of goodness and truth, in everything we do and in every job we have. In short, a life of kindness means doing useful things.

A life of kindness is the primary meaning of divine worship. Religious devotion is a secondary form of worship. When we separate the two by living a life of religious devotion without being a kind person also, we are not worshipping God. We do think about God, but our thinking comes from ourselves, not from God, since we are constantly thinking about ourselves and never about other people. If we think about other people at all, we look down on them if they are not like us. We think of heaven as a rew ard, so we have an idea in our minds that we deserve heaven, and we are also self-centered. We belittle and neglect being useful--which means we do not care about other people. Yet at the same time, we do not believe we have done anything wrong.

So you can see that a life of religious devotion without a life of kindness is not a spiritual life, which we must have if we want to worship the divine. (See Matthew 6:7-8.)

125 Outward holiness is similar to religious devotion. It especially means believing that divine worship is just being holy when we are in church. However, this worship is not holy for us unless our deeper self is holy too. Whatever we are like inward ly, that is what we are like outwardly as well, since our outward self comes from our inward self just as our actions come from our spirit. So outward holiness without inward holiness is materialistic, not spiritual.

Harmful people can be just as outwardly holy as good people. When we think that is all there is to worship, we are usually empty--that is, we have no concept of what is good and true. Yet goodness and truth are actually the holy things we should know , believe, and love, because they are from the divine, and so the divine is in them.

Being inwardly holy is loving goodness and truth because they are good and true, and loving fairness and honesty because they are honest and fair. The more we love these qualities, the more we are spiritual and our worship holy, since we want to know and act on them. But the less we love these qualities, the more both we and our worship are materialistic, and the less we want to know and act on them.

Outward holiness without inward holiness is like the life force of our breathing without the life force of our heart. But outward holiness that comes from inward holiness is like the life force of our breathing combined with the life force of our hea rt.

126 Then there is breaking our attachments to material things. Many people believe that breaking our attachments to material things and living a spiritual life rather than a physically-minded one means rejecting material things (especially wealth and status), being constantly absorbed in religious contemplation about God, salvation, and eternal life, and spending our whole life praying, reading the Bible and other holy books, and denying ourselves. But this is not what breaking our attachments to mate rial things means. It actually means loving the Lord and loving other people. We love the Lord when we live according to his rules and we love other people when we do useful things for them. This means that if we want to accept a heavenly life, we absolut ely must get involved in the material world and its services and business dealings.

Living in detachment from material things is devoting our life to thinking and faith separated from love and kindness. This kind of life makes us lose our desire and ability to do good things for other people. When we lose this, our spiritual life is like a house without a foundation, which gradually sinks down into the ground, or develops cracks and holes, or leans over sideways until it collapses.

127 This statement of the Lord makes it clear that doing good things is worshipping the Lord:

Everyone who hears my words and acts on them is like a sensible man who builds his house on a rock. . . . But people who hear my words and do not act on them are like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. . . . or right on the gro und with no foundation. (Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:47-49)

128 It is clear from this that a life of religious devotion is worthwhile and accepted by the Lord only as much as it is combined with a life of kindness. The life of kindness is the most important thing, and it determines what the religious devotion is like.

It is also clear that outward holiness is worthwhile and accepted by the Lord only as much as it comes from inward holiness, since the inward holiness determines what the outward holiness is like.

Finally, breaking our attachments to material things is worthwhile and accepted by the Lord only as much as we do it while still being involved in the material world. We are breaking our attachments to material things when we get rid of our selfishne ss and materialism, and act fairly and honestly in every job, in every business dealing, and in everything else we do, from a deeper, heavenly source. When we do things honestly, fairly, and well, this heavenly source is the life force in us, because then it is in harmony with divine laws.

Chapter 9

Back to Contents