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Helpfulness Is a Noble Virtue



4/14/2024

 

James 2:24 “So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

 

Christian tradition holds that James, like Jude, were sons of Mary and Joseph, and therefore half-brothers to Jesus. In this Chapter, James is discussing the connection between faith and action, or our works, as it is called.  James concludes that they are inseparable. In Luke 10:25-28, Jesus says as much in his famous encounter with a Pharisee who was well versed in their religious law. The lawyer asks, “Teacher,” he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.

 

Jesus does not mention the need for faith, since it would be assumed that a Pharisee had faith in God. But the emphasis in the reply from Christ was on works, actions, things we do when we have read the laws of God that have been written on our hearts.

 

The lawyer needed a bit more clarification on who was our neighbor and who were we a neighbor toward. So, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan who helped the assaulted Jew. At last, the lawyer said that the neighbor was the person who showed mercy and helped the man who had fallen into the hands of robbers. He got it, and Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”


Our salvation, our being right with God is not solely based upon our faith. Our faith moves us into action. Those words from Christ, “Go and do likewise,” should be our anthem, our life motto.

 

Author Mark Manson wrote that inspiration moves us to motivation, which propels us into action, which results in more inspiration, which leads to motivation and then on to action, and this cycle continues.  Inspiration, motivation, action. But he says we don’t have to begin this cycle with inspiration. It can begin with action, almost any action, and then harness the reaction to that action as a way of motivating ourselves, which leads us to more action, inspiration, and motivation.

 

He calls it “The Do Something” Principle. If we are immobilized for any reason, fear, dread, uncertainty, apathy, self-limiting rationalizations, no matter – do something. Anything. We’ve heard the dictate, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” When I was a kid, my mom used to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

 

“We are shown to be right with God by what we do.” If we do something wrong, God will clean up our mess. But God can’t move through us unless we are moving. Christ cannot love through us unless we are loving others, helping others, showing mercy, supporting others with our words, thoughts, and actions … doing something.  “Go and do likewise; love somebody.”

 

The virtue I want to discuss this week is helpfulness. Helpfulness is a noble virtue. It reflects a selfless commitment to aiding others, fostering compassion, and creating a positive impact in our interconnected world.  

 

Why is helping others important? It seems like an obvious question, but here are a few reasons. First, when we help others, we are fulfilling God’s plan for us – to connect, to love each other. Our acts of kindness and service foster trust, empathy, and goodwill. We are building bridges and bonds to others. Helping does not always mean that we take over and do everything ourself. That can be unhelpful. When someone needs assistance, we give it to them, and if applicable, show them how to do it on their own.

 

Second, by helping others we are helping ourselves, mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Research shows that by helping others our brains release endorphins, hormones that reduce pain and make us feel good. So, helping others makes us happy and feel less stressed. Helping others can reduce our blood pressure. The stress-reducing effects of pro-social behavior contribute to better cardiovascular health.

 

Engaging in helpful actions can enhance cognitive function and keep our thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as we age.

It may also reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, leading to better mental well-being. Being helpful provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Positive emotions from helping others create an upward spiral of flourishing and attunement to Spirit. Altruistic behavior may even extend our lifespan. Focusing on helping others positively impacts our health and well-being.

 

Developing our helpfulness also creates positive change. Small acts of helpfulness accumulate to create significant change. Whether it’s cleaning up a park, mentoring a child, or donating to a cause, every contribution matters. Collectively, these actions shape a better world for everyone. Knowing that our actions benefit others gives us a sense of purpose. It transcends self-centeredness and connects us to a larger mission: a purpose-driven, God-filled life that is fulfilling and meaningful.

 

In our cycle of action, inspiration, and motivation, our actions can inspire others into similar actions. Others may witness what we do, our actions and follow suit. Our beneficial behaviors may awaken within them that suggestion of Christ to, “Go and do likewise.” By being helpful, we contribute to a positive cycle of influence.

 

Helping others during challenging times builds our own resilience. It reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. The compassion and support we provide flows back to us from various sources and strengthens our ability to overcome adversity. This is because our helping others contributes to social harmony, and we benefit from the balance that is being built. Communities thrive when individuals actively help one another. Helpful neighbors, coworkers, and citizens create a harmonious environment. Social cohesion, balance, and cooperation lead to progress.

 

Last of all, helping others demonstrates that we honor our values, that we also ‘get’ the message that Christ gave those 2000 years ago. Aiding others is not only a moral obligation, but it is an expression of faith and love. By serving those in need, we demonstrate our commitment to God’s values and show compassion to those who are less fortunate.  

 

Helpful actions align with virtues such as compassion, empathy, generosity, and love. Living out these values enriches our character and reflects our beliefs.  We can love God, love our neighbor, and by doing so, love ourselves.

 

As we pursue moral purity and obedience, we draw near to God and experience His presence and guidance, and this brings about spiritual transformation. Through helping others, we choose a life of holiness and become more like Christ. Our light shines brighter, and we point others toward God more clearly.

 

Being helpful to others and doing things that are thoughtful not only makes a difference in the lives of those who are closest to us, but also in our own lives, and ultimately it changes the world. By helping others, we give a part of ourselves to others and grow in that love.

 

It is my prayer that we follow Christs’ commandment to “Go and do likewise,” by showing mercy, by sharing compassion, and by being helpful. In truth, helpfulness is more than a virtue; it is a force that shapes our lives, impacts others, and leaves a legacy of love.

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