Monday, October 19, 2009

The Right of God

The other day, a friend of mine came to me and said, "You're good at math. Can you help me learn to budget?"

"No," was my immediate response. I mean, what do I know about budgeting? I don't know anything about economics. It's sort of like asking me how to organize a desk: I know the theory, but the practice is something else altogether. Let's just say that I'm glad you can't see my desk while reading this. Come to think of it, I can't see my desk while I'm writing it.

In the end, he asked me how I kept my own budget, and said he hoped that it would help him.

"Well," was my hesitant reply, "it doesn't really apply to you. I mean, you're not a Baha'i."

"What does that have to do with it?"

"Because I use something called the Right of God."

His puzzled expression was about what I expected. "And how does it work?"

This was more my speed. I can talk about the Right of God for hours. Budgeting? No way, but Huququ'llah? No problem.

We spoke about the difference between our "needs" and "wants", and how the "wants" require a 19% taxation, to use a term he was familiar with. I didn't think he would know the word "Huququ'llahable". Most Baha'is don't know it. Probably for a good reason, too.

I then explained that this forced separation of my expenditures (see? I can use accounting terms when needed) allowed me to see what my needs actually were. This was the basis for my budgeting.

He left very happy, and said that he was going to start doing this, too.

"Calculate your Right of God?" I thought. OK. If it works for you.

I didn't think anything of this until a few days later another friend came up to me with the same question. "How do you budget?"

This time I was ready.

"The Right of God!" I said with certainty.

He asked me to go through some of the Writings with him. Not one to be daunted by such a request, we went through the compilation on Huququ'llah together. In it, we found the usual quotes we all know: "Source... of all good", "source of blessings", "the mainspring of God's loving-kindness and tender love vouchsafed unto men", "a most excellent favour", "its goodly results and the fruits thereof will last as long as the kingdom of earth and heaven will endure", and so on and so forth. There really are so many, it's sort of overwhelming.

But here was someone who had never read these quotes before. I hadn't realized it, but I had become hardened to them. It wasn't until I saw his reaction that I remembered how great a Law this is. (It's so great that I have to capitalize it)

And then we read from the Master, "...The wisdom of this command is that the act of giving is well-pleasing in the sight of God." This Law cultivates our sense of generosity, which is "well-pleasing in the sight of God". Wow.

It had never occurred to me the reaction that this might get in someone who is not a Baha'i.

He, too, decided to try using this method of being aware of how we spend our money, how much of it is on things that are not necessary, and using this as a basis for a budget.

Baha'u'llah says that this Law is "incumbent on all". Does that mean everyone, like everyone? Or just everyone like all the Baha'is? Surely the payment to the office of Huququ'llah is only by Baha'is, but is there more to this? It occurred to us both that if the wisdom of this Law is to cultivate generosity, this is applicable to anyone.

My friend then asked me how he could pay the Right of God. I said, "You have to be a Baha'i. Would you like to be a member of the Baha'i community and do this?" He declined, and decided to pay to a charity, instead. After all, it is ok to buy that double-mocha-cappuccino, but you should also ensure that some of your money is going to charity.

In the end, four friends each asked about budgeting, and all four are now calculating their Right of God in order to make charitable contributions. Some are doing the 19%, while others are doing 10%.

You would think this is the end of the story, and I, myself, didn't really think much more about it, except in the sense of realizing that when we teach people about the Laws of the Faith, we really should include this "Mighty Law". Perhaps Ruhi Book 6 will include it in future editions of Anna's Presentation (hint hint). But I really didn't think much more about it.

Until I told some Baha'is about it. I was in a meeting and we were asked by a member of the Board of Trustees for the Right of God in Canada how we spoke about Huququ'llah to other Baha'is.

His reaction after hearing an abbreviated version of this story made me realize something was unusual here. What was pointed out was that here were four people who are not Baha'i and yet practicing the Right of God. If they were to declare, they would already be practicing this Great Law. Can a greater bounty be imagined? Is this not up there with those who are doing the practices in the Ruhi books before enrolling? Or teaching children's classes or hosting devotional gatherings?

On a final note, there is a dear friend who has not yet affirmed his Faith. He is 15 and said that he was not sure he saw the practicality or applicability of the Faith in his life. We spoke of this Law in terms of his budget for things like groceries, and he now sees the applicability.

Now if I could only do something about my desk.

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