brown and white buffalo face each other metaphor for ethnic groups, avoid prejudice, love neighbors

Who are Your Neighbors? | Spiritual Meditations

I’m sure you are aware of the relationship between lack of experience and fear.   How many times have you said to someone “I would never do that” after they have described an experience you felt was risky? But with more knowledge, encouragement or courage, you find yourself doing the very thing you previously feared.

Let’s Talk

If you haven’t tried anything new lately, I encourage you to think of something you’ve always wanted to do and go do it.  We grow as a result of new experiences and meeting new people, especially people who are different from us.  Some of my most memorable and gratifying experiences have been with people whose first language was not English.  When I was a teenager, I remember thinking that people speaking a ‘foreign’ language within my hearing were rude or saying something derogatory about me or somebody I was with, when actually they were probably talking about what they were going to make for dinner.  Wow, was I the center of my universe or what?

It’s fun to talk to strangers… certainly not scary.  Some would even say it’s healthy and improves the quality of life of those involved.  I listened to a TED talk with Kio Stark this week.  She talks about how much she loves to talk to strangers and the expression of humanity it provides to herself and those she speaks to.  I gave it a try 3 times this week and enjoyed each experience.  It was a win.Her “Why You Should Talk to Strangers”  video is only 12 minutes and watching it will lift your spirits.   (Take a look at my first blog post God’s Faithfulness Slam Dunked My Life to learn how God encouraged me to talk to strangers and how He used that conversation to change my life.)

In a Huffington Post article written by Emma Brancatisano, Jasmine Sliger, a cross-cultural counselling and organizational psychologist, said we should all be talking more.

“We don’t usually allow ourselves to be outside of our comfort zone. And [talking to a stranger] can be challenging, because we don’t know what is on the other side,” Sliger said. “It depends on your personality. Some have more of a natural sense of social engagement than others.”

“If you have a close friend who is more extroverted than you, go out with them and observe how they interact,” Sliger said. “Then, start by carrying out some social experiments. Begin talking to people or acknowledging them.”

“The best place to start is to show appreciation to those who are in your service. You’re acknowledging that they’re a human being and that you appreciate what they’ve done for you. Start there. Whether that be the guy who makes your soy latte in the morning or the friendly woman at your local deli, start simply. By doing this, you’re acknowledging that they’re a human being and that you appreciate what they’ve done for you. Start there,” Sliger said.

“I think we live in a world today where there is so much fear — whether that be of refugees or the person next to us…It even borders on paranoia. We are getting hampered more and more by messages of fear and this leads to people creating stereotypical fears. You can’t walk alone, you can’t let your children out of your sight and you need to talk to them about stranger danger. Whilst I believe you need to do these things, the message can be overplayed. And that is detrimental to the growth of a person.”

Fear – Nature and Nurture

Fear is a primal instinct.  Our very early ancestors learned that if you are approached by a stranger, it is safer to consider them an enemy and be ready to fight or flight, rather than consider them a friend and be wrong…a potentially fatal mistake.

Layered on top of the primal instinct, a person may lack confidence  They may have had a  traumatic childhood experiences.  They are likely to be influence by parents, teachers, family and friends, whose perspectives and ideas may not be helpful in developing a mentally healthy individual.  This is how prejudice gets passed from generation to generation. And this concoction of fear and prejudice is stirred and agitated by exaggerated negative TV news.

You Decide What Your Fears Are

But being afraid of strangers does not have to be a life-long condition.  Jack Schafer PhD explains “that the first step is understanding when and how the fear appeared.  The second step is to acknowledge strangers” who have helped humanity, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.  “The third, to face the fear and start interacting with strangers.”  The more experience you have with different people, the less fearful you will be of their ‘stereotype’.  And there are big differences between people within what you may consider a group or type of people.  We use the most obvious characteristic to create our stereotypical groups, while the people we put in those groups are really so different.  How similar are you to the people you know and would consider to be in your group?  You will see differences in personality and values among them.  And there are just as many personalities among every stereotypical group you can think of.

The Potential for Hate and Hate Crimes

Not all stereotypical fear of strangers (prejudice) is going to elevate to hate crimes, but we need to be aware of the potential.  How many times have families ignored or rationalized a family member’s association with haters and people using violent rhetoric?

In Psychology Today, Dr. Schafer explains “Hate masks personal insecurities.  Not all insecure people are haters, but all haters are insecure people.  Hate elevates the hater above the hated.  Haters cannot stop hating without exposing their personal insecurities.  Haters can only stop hating when they face their insecurities”.  So let’s do our best to accept and extend agape love to everyone.  I, for one, do not want to be a contributing factor in the development of  people becoming fuel for hate crime combustion.

According to the analysts with The Conversation in their June 2018 article

Hate crime totals for the 10 largest cities [in the US] rose for four straight years to the highest level in a decade.

Nationally, levels in 2014 were the lowest since national reporting began in 1992, according to the FBI. Since then, hate crimes have steadily increased. In 2016, the last year with FBI totals available, hate crimes were up 11.7 percent compared to 2014.

We see three factors behind the moderate overall increases in 2016. First, there was a precipitous spike around the election. Second, on top of sustained levels of hate crimes against African-Americans, and a small increase against Jews, were larger percentage increases against other groups. Third, hate crimes increased by double-digit percentages in several large states, including New York, California, Florida and Illinois.

Are We Good Neighbors?

God doesn’t get into the psychology and statistics of it, but His wisdom tells us to be kind to strangers:

Exodus 22:21     Do not mistreat a stranger or oppress a foreigner for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34    But the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you and you shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.

Hebrews 13:2    Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Luke 10:25-37    The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”  27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

So who are your neighbors?  Jesus is saying everyone is your neighbor, love your neighbor as yourself, do to others as you would want others to do to you.

Our Inner Being is God and God is Love, so we can’t help but love our fellow man / strangers / brothers.  Their Inner Being also is God.  John tells us in I John 4:20 “If a man says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. for if he doesn’t love his brother, who he can see, how can he love God , who he can’t see”.

In the 25th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says ‘What you have done to the least of my brethren, you have done to me”.  Joel S.Goldsmith, in his book Practicing the Presence, adds a karmic interpretation to these words.  We are all One spirit of God.  “God is the Selfhood of every individual…and the injustice that I am doing to another, I am doing to myself.  The lack of thoughtfulness that I show to another, I am showing to myself.”

Forgiveness

Unfortunately, not everyone has tapped into the their Inner Being of love.  So we must learn to pray “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do”.  and pray that their eyes will be opened to the Truth.

If there are individuals with whom we are not on harmonious terms, we find, as we turn within [pray, meditate, listen to God] and pray that brotherly love and harmony be established between us, that instead of enemies, we come into a relationship of spiritual brotherhood with them.  Our relationship with everyone then takes on a harmony and a heretofore unknown joy.

This is not possible as long as we feel antagonism toward anyone.  If we are harboring within us personal animosity, or if we are indulging in national or religious hatred, prejudice or bigotry, our prayers are worthless.  We must go to God with clean hand in order to pray, and to approach God with clean hands we must relinquish our animosities.  Within ourselves we must first pray the prayer of forgiveness for those that have offended us, since ‘they know that what they do’.

It is not only inconsistent, but hypocritical to talk about the Christ and our great love of God in one breath and in the next breath, speak disparagingly of a neighbor who is of a different race, creed, nationality, political affiliation, or economic status. One cannot be the child of God as long as he persecutes or hates anyone or anything, but only as he lives in a consciousness of no judgement or condemnation.

Joel S Goldsmith, excerpt from Practicing the Presence

Conclusion

Many of our fears are irrational.  But we can overcome our natural tendencies to fear strangers.  When it comes to people, the more contact we have with a diverse population, the fewer fears and prejudice we will have. Our lives will also be much richer and interesting for the experience.  Let’s appreciate the differences.  You may be as different to them as they are to you.  And your interaction could lead to greater acceptance and compassion for all parties involved.  Each person is God’s unique creation and we don’t need to assigned to them some made-up group.  Strike up a conversation with 3 strangers this week and let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear about it.

Although He doesn’t always give us explanations, God’s direction, as written in scripture and as written on your heart, will lead you to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.  God is clear?  Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  Love your neighbor as yourself.



cross crown sky clouds metaphor for Soul Ascend

God’s Touch and A Soul Ascended | Spiritual Meditations

It seems that when someone we care about dies, we often regret something we said, or didn’t say, something we did or didn’t do.  We think we could have done more to make their life, or their end-of-life, better.  Guilt can sometimes be overwhelming.  How fortunate, that the greater our connection with God, the greater is His support of us during those times.  My friend, Tim, is going to tell you about an experience he had, as a young chaplain, that involves healing, the presence of God and his afterlife connection with a cancer patient.

The following was written by Rev. Dr. Tim Ehrlich

Context

As a first semester seminarian at Duke I was hired as Student Associate Pastor of Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. I loved working at Trinity Avenue for my boss Rev. Doctor Bennett, but after two years at Trinity I quit to take care of my newborn baby son Shaun and to enroll in the CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program at Duke Medical Center. CPE required 35 hours a week and counted as two elective classes towards graduation from the Divinity School. My acceptance into the program made me a chaplain intern at Duke Hospital. As such I was assigned to an area that required a lot of pastoral care: the burn and amputation unit. I also rotated as Chaplain on call once every 10 days, which required me to stay at the hospital for 24 hours during my rotation.

The burn & amputation unit was a regional burn unit so it was busy with patients from all over the state. My job was to do pastoral visits with those who requested pastoral visits and with those whom the nursing staff had identified as most in need. Usually I visited everyone about to have an amputation and everyone who was having complications following their amputation. I also visited those who had been burned badly enough to require hospitalization.

I saw some very sad cases, people who had to have multiple amputations, or repeated amputations on the same limb, industrial accidents, and terrible burn cases. I visited with and tried to bring hope and light to people in the darkest depths of depression, and I visited with others facing similar circumstances, who were so filled with the joy and love of the Lord that they ministered to me instead of the other way around.

A Special Cancer Patient

As the Chaplain On Call for the thousand bed hospital I was given a pager and had to respond to every code blue (person is dying) situation, to provide immediate pastoral support to the family, if any. I also had to respond to pastoral assignment given by any staff doctor. One day when I was on call, I was paged by a doctor to visit with a young man who was very sick with cancer and had just been told he had a very short time to live – a month or so at most. His name was Patrick, I really liked him and felt so sorry for him because he was a really nice guy, a Christian, happily married and had an 8 year old daughter, and he was about to leave them without a husband and daddy.

Healing Hands

Having had the experience of seeing people I had prayed for miraculously healed, I asked him if I could hold my hands over him and pray for his healing and he said ‘yes’. This became a daily thing: at some point during my daily time at work I would stop by his room and do this laying on of hands and pray. There was no huge miraculous response, but each time I prayed he seemed a little better: he seemed a little stronger and certainly it lifted his spirits. His month stretched out into two months. I truly felt like I was in a battle with his cancer, my prayers would lift him up during the week, but I was gone over the weekends, and cancer would tear him down such that by Mondays he was back to where he was at the beginning of the week. So it was an even battle, neither side was winning, but that felt like a victory to me because he was getting some extra time with his family.

But then we had Thanksgiving break, and I was off for 10 days. I was busy with family and didn’t get into the hospital. I was pretty sure that without a daily prayer with me he would likely die. Sure enough at the end of break I got word that Patrick had died. I was feeling confused and sad: why had my prayers for healing other young people been so effective, but my prayers for this man could not defeat the cancer, just slow it down for a few weeks? Why did God let a simple soul like Patrick die, when he had so much to live for? With questions like this shaking my faith, how could I survive the emotional toll of being a pastor and working with good people who were dying?

God’s Touch

So I did what I do in situations like that, I prayed. “God,” I said, “Father, I am really in pain right now. I am confused, I am doubting my calling. I need you to give me a touch. I am asking you to give me a touch. I going to hold out my hand, and would you please touch my hand and let me know you are there?” I really don’t know where that request came from. Gideon put out a fleece: I put out my palm. I had never asked anything like that of God before. It was just the cry of a broken heart, reacting with emotion and not intellect. So I lay face down on my bed with my right hand held open; and as I lay there I felt a firm touch on my palm. It was such a strong physical sensation of someone pressing a finger into my palm that I opened my eyes somewhat startled and looked around. I thought my wife might have come into the room and touched my hand, but I was alone.

That touch did two things to me: first it lifted me up emotionally – because I had been in such agony of the soul over Patrick’s passing. Secondly, my questions and doubts about why God let a good man like Patrick die were gone. That touch was like a spiritual defibrillator, it jolted me back to faith: I had just asked God to touch my palm, and he did! What do you do with something like that? How do you categorize it? There is a certain amount of shock that sets in; its good, a good thing happened, but it was surprising.

A Soul Ascending

A few hours later, I again walked into my room and lay face down on the bed to pray. Despite the experience of being touched I was still feeling deeply sorry for his widow and daughter. I was not in agony of the soul any more but I was also feeling a bit guilty because I had not been there daily to pray and to keep him going during the holiday. So I prayed for his family and for my guilt. While I was praying, I suddenly heard his voice, as if coming from above me. He said, “Timmy, its me Patrick.” There was a moment of silence, I responded “Hi Patrick, what is up with you?” He replied, “I don’t know where I am; do you know where I am?” I rolled over onto my back, I said, “I don’t know where you are but I know where you are going, and you need to go there now!” That was it; I heard nothing more from him ever again.

Conclusion

That experience caused me to understand that sometimes souls are so attached to this world that they are not ready to cross over and they can linger for a time. This and other similar incidents I’ve experienced also speak to me of the reality of the soul as an intelligent entity that survives the death of the physical body.

If you would like to share your spiritual experience, I would like to hear it.  Please use the ‘Contact Me’ form.

Relevant scripture verses:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

4 Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6 There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 7 The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. 9 He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick. 10 He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. 11 It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.

John 1:49-51 New International Version (NIV)

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Methaphor for the many who have entered the afterlife

Afraid of Death? Get to Know Your Unknown |Spiritual Meditations

 

Every religion in history has suggested a concept of what comes after death.  We humans find most of these concepts to be comforting as they relieve our anxiety about the unknown.  Some of us have had experiences that confirm our beliefs.  Others profess the beliefs of their religious traditions, but still have some uncertainties.  There are folks who think there is nothing after death and it’s just lights out and no consciousness.  Other than the group that has had an afterlife affirming experience, there are going to be many who are truly afraid of the unknown existence (or lack there of) after they die.

I’m going to attempt to relieve some of your fears.

The Scientific Model Applied to Near Death Experience

Radiology Oncologist, Dr. Jeff Long, develop an exhaustive survey which can be seen on his website.  (Be sure to click on ‘New Experiences’ to read many accounts of Near-Death Experiences.)  For several year, people who have had Near-Death Experiences (NDE) have voluntarily completed his survey sharing their experience.  The surveys consistently show up to 9 lines of evidence which have been categorized by Dr. Long and used by the community of researchers who study NDE.  Dr. Long presents his findings based on 613 surveys in his book Evidence of the Afterlife,

In this fascinating interview, Dr Long talks about his findings as well as some individual cases.  See  ‘A Glimpse Through the Thin Curtain between Life and Afterlife for a couple of examples of what Dr Long describes as common shared experiences between the dying/dead and the living.

The 9 lines of evidence are:

1. Crystal-Clear Consciousness

The level of consciousness and alertness during near-death experiences (NDEs) is usually even greater than that experienced in everyday life even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically inexplicable. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, which refutes the possibility that NDEs have any relation to dreams or hallucinations.

2. Realistic Out-of-Body Experiences

Out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are one of the most common elements of NDEs. What NDErs see and hear of earthly events in the out-of-body state is almost always realistic. When the NDEr or others later seek to verify what was observed or heard during the NDE, the OBE observations are almost always confirmed as completely accurate. Even if the OBE observations during the NDE included events far from the physical body, and far from any possible sensory awareness of the NDEr, the OBE observations are still almost always confirmed as completely accurate. This fact alone rules out the possibility that near-death experiences are related to any known brain functioning or sensory awareness. This also refutes the possibility that NDEs are unrealistic fragments of memory from the brain.

3. Heightened Senses

Not only are heightened senses reported by most who have experienced NDEs, normal or supernormal vision has occurred in those with significantly impaired vision, and even legal blindness. Several people who have been totally blind since birth have reported highly visual near-death experiences. This is medically inexplicable.

4. Consciousness During Anesthesia

Many NDEs occur while under general anesthesia – at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. While some skeptics claim that these NDEs may be the result of too little anesthesia, this ignores the fact that some NDEs result from anesthesia overdose. Additionally, the description of an NDE differs greatly from that of one who experiences “anesthetic awareness.” The content of NDEs that occur under general anesthesia is essentially indistinguishable from NDEs that did not occur under general anesthesia. This is further strong evidence that NDEs are occurring completely independently from the functioning of the physical brain.

5. Perfect Playback

Life reviews in near-death experiences include real events that previously took place in the lives of those having the experience, even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember.

6. Family Reunions

During an NDE, the people encountered are virtually always deceased, and are usually relatives of the person having the experience – sometimes they are even relatives who died before the NDEr was born. Were the NDE only a product of memory fragments, they would almost certainly include far more living people, including those with whom they had more recently interacted.

7. Children’s Experiences

The near-death experiences of children, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or near-death experiences, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. This refutes the possibility that the content of NDEs is produced by preexisting beliefs or cultural conditioning.

8. Worldwide Consistency

Near-death experiences appear remarkably consistent around the world, and across many different religions and cultures. NDEs from non-Western countries are incredibly similar to those that occur in people in Western countries.

9. Aftereffects

It is common for people to experience major life changes after having near-death experiences. These aftereffects are often powerful, lasting, life-enhancing, and the changes generally follow a consistent pattern. As the NDErs themselves almost always believe – near-death experiences are, in a word, real.

Some people experience reviews of their lives during a NDE after which they make changes to their lives when returning to earthy consciousness. They say the reviews are done in a loving manner and show them the error of their ways.   In this video, NDErs talk about their experiences.

In a conference presentation Dr. Long mentions that only 1 of the 16 atheists who took the survey remained an atheist after their NDE. Even those who do not have reviews make a sustained effort to improve their contribution to the world, their families, and/or society. Obviously, the impact of these experiences is huge. You know how hard it is to make changes in your personality, attitudes and your life in general.

All NDEs used in his study included at least 7 out of the 9 lines of evidence.  This commonality points to the conclusion that NDE is a real experience of profound significance and meaning, and also provides evidence of life after death.

Dr. Long’s study is one of many.  There are studies with slightly different conclusions, using different sample types and sizes.  And there are studies that reached no conclusion whatsoever.  You can take a look at addition videos made at conferences of the International Association for Near Death Studies.  Many additional resources are on the site for the curious and for those who have had a NDE.

Now that we’ve seen what modern technology and the scientific method tell us about the afterlife, or at least the beginning of it, let’s see what additional information scripture has been telling us for centuries.

What More does Scripture Tells Us about the Afterlife

Your Soul, your Inner Being, is a piece of God and is your true identity.  Are you aware of that center of your being that is love?  Your deep down connection with God that nobody sees, but can be evidenced by your interactions with the world.

(If you have trouble sensing this in yourself, I hope that you will select a phrase from my suggestions or another scripture or phrase from an inspirational source and meditate on it for as many sessions as it takes to own it. The second part of your session, clearing your mind, is just as important as this enhances your ability to hear ‘the still small voice’ when God communicates with you.)

Paul, who met Jesus after Jesus’s resurrection, and a pretty inspired guy, wrote “We are the children of God: And if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).  This is enormous!  Among the many implications of this, it says that just as Christ went to Heaven, so shall we.  You are heir to all the heavenly riches.

In Luke 15,  Jesus tells the story of two sons, one who took his inheritance and left home and the other who stayed at home to work the land.  He compares the father in the story to God the Father who tells his disgruntled loyal son   ‘you are always with me and all that I have is yours’.  Jesus is telling us that God will provide for all our needs, including an afterlife.

All the great religious figures of the past, despite their earthly contributions, have left their bodies behind and are continuing their spiritual ministry on a different plane.  The same plane that you and I will experience.  God tells us ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you…I am with you always, even until the end of the world’.

When you are sick, God will be there with you.  When you come to your last moments, God will be there.  When you pass into the afterlife, God will be there to help you through.  Then you will see how little there was to fear.

Do not fear this human sense of life or the loss of it. The human sense of life is not your real life. Your real life is the life you are living in your Soul. That is your life, your real being….Just as you outgrew infancy and childhood, just as adulthood merged into the middle years, so will you outgrow the entire human experience and, unless you fight to cling to this present experience, that transition should be a progressive step. Begin as soon as you can to look on the experience of passing, not with horror and not as if it were the end of something beautiful. It is not the end: it is the beginning. It is but the end of one phase of experience and the beginning of another.

What is man’s state of being when he passes from this world? One thing is certain, and that is that those who are not on the spiritual path will not be placed on that path just by the act of dying. It is safe to assume that they will be in the very same state of consciousness when they awaken as they were when they left here. But, and this I know not from assumption, but from experience; those who are on the spiritual path, regardless of how little progress they seem to have made, are instantly, by the act of passing, lifted into a higher atmosphere than they experienced here on earth. Joel S Goldsmith

Your body is only your mechanism for walking around in the world and hopefully learning something from the experience. So find your Inner Being.

Relevant Scripture Verses

Gen 25:8     Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years, and he was gathered to his people

John 5:24     Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

Romans 8:10     But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 13     Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

Our genetics select the needy. You are born to help.

Why do You Think Low-Income Families Deserve Your Help? | Spiritual Meditations

Genetics Select the Needy

You and I not only have different physical attributes, but we also have different mental attributes.  You may be a risk-taker who is great with numbers and, therefore, make a great financier. Or you may have mountains of compassion and, therefore, make a great nurse.  I may have an inquisitive mind and, therefore, should be doing research.

On the other hand, you may have an inborn negative attitude and find it difficult to be motivated by anything.  And I may have trouble noticing detail and tracking so written directions are a problem.

There are hundreds of mental and personality traits that we are born with.  And their combination make individuals who they are.  Upbringing can modify these traits for better or for worse.   And we can learn to hide, to some extent, the traits that we believe hinder us.  That is, unless we don’t have the introspective personality trait and the ability to act (a skill that requires imagination and empathy).

Child development psychologists tell us that deep and lasting shaping of neural pathways happens in the first hours, days, months, and years of life. Basic dispositions are formed that can last a lifetime. Whether you are held, spoken to, fed, made to feel safe and cared for — you have no choice in any of it, but it more or less forms your emotional skeleton. It determines how sensitive you are to threat, how open you are to new experience, your capacity to exercise empathy.

Children aren’t responsible for how they spend their formative years and the permanent imprint it makes upon them. But they’re stuck with it…..

So, then, here you are. You turn 18. You are no longer a child; you are an adult, a moral agent, responsible for who you are and what you do.

By that time, your inheritance is enormous. You’ve not only been granted a genetic makeup, an ethnicity and appearance, by accidents of nature and parentage. You’ve also had your latent genetic traits “activated” in a very specific way through a specific upbringing, in a specific environment, with a specific set of experiences.

Your basic mental and emotional wiring is in place; you have certain instincts, predilections, fears, and cravings. You have a certain amount of money, certain social connections and opportunities, a certain family lineage. You’ve had a certain amount and quality of education. You’re a certain kind of person.  The radical moral implications of luck in human life: Acknowledging the role of luck is the secular equivalent of religious awakening. By David Roberts)

So I think it is fair to say that genetics select the needy.  At least, within an otherwise prosperous society.  Do we have a moral obligation to share our talents, our skills, the fruits of our inherited personality traits with those of individuals who inherited traits that aren’t as conducive to making money?

We choose out mates, not only because of common interests, but also become they have complimentary personality traits.  “You complete me”.  They may be good at something that we are not and vice versa.  Shall we be any less cooperative with other people in society?  (Try to keep your mind out of the gutter on this one.)

Corporate and Government Treatment of Low Income Individuals

I don’t mean to totally downplay nurturing but it is obvious that the individuals that are living on the streets or changing low-paying jobs on a regular bases, have not had nurturing enough to overcome their inherited traits.  And some corporations, thinking only of the bottom line, either don’t realize or don’t care how their actions effect low income families.

It has never been easy to be poor in America, but decisions made in company boardrooms about seemingly modest financial matters — about fees, fines, interest rates, minimum balances — make life far harder than it has to be for low-income families. This week, Bank of America announced its free, no-minimum-balance checking account, popular with many low-income customers, will require a $1,500 minimum daily balance or $250 in direct monthly deposit (totaling $3,000 per year). If customers fall below that threshold, they will be forced to pay a monthly fee.    (Why it Cost so much to be Poor in America – Karen Weese)

Government funding for social programs is always threatened by the chopping block.  Medicaid is making it harder for low-income and disabled individuals to get funding for basic needs.  We’re required to pay taxes to the government anyway, so why not petition for a more compassionate distribution of funds.

You were Born to be Helpful

You might argue “I didn’t get the generous or charitable trait”.  OK, that may be true, so hopefully you live with people who did.  Some psychologists would say there is one other trait you may not have gotten.  See if you agree.  The Link between humility and helpfulness.

But most of us are born with an instinct to help others.  “Some biologists believe that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others. Of course every animal must to some extent be selfish to survive. But the biologists also see in humans a natural willingness to help.” The theory is that is was developed during prehistoric society where cooperation was needed for survival.  There have been many studies regarding this. Once such study was reported in the New York Times by Nicholas Wade.

So there is the logical reason that (for everyone who can) there is a moral obligation to help those in need.  Fortunately, it also comes naturally to most.

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. (John Wesley)

Writings related to this article that are worth meditating on are found here under Helping the Needy and Being Humble