Those who do their daily work, create (net) value and serve others engage in worldly worship of God. Worship of God is not a reclusive chanting of mantras in praise of God, whatever be one’s faith, but is an active engagement with the humanity of the world with one’s labor devoted to creating (net) value and excellence in whatever vocation one is in.
Each of us are called into the world – in a multitude of ways (our many varied vocations)- not called out of the world to praise God. Christ worked as carpenter; Mohammed worked as a soldier; Buddha and Mahavir worked as hermits; countless incarnations of Hindu Gods worked in many different vocations; many saints worked as ardent servants of communities (e.g., Mother Teresa). The common characteristic of all of them is that they did their daily work, created (net) value, and served others. They created value before they claimed it for themselves. In some cases, they created value without claiming any of it.
What pleases God is not selfish supplications or proud abasements, but doing work for the good of others. No one and no moment are exempt from such labor. In the business world we call this net value creation. By consciously seeking excellence in whatever we produce to be better than previous times (continuous improvement over time), and to be better than our current and future competition, we deliver what God intends for us to do. Yet we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves, i.e., a tinge of selfishness is morally and spiritually appropriate. Because our fundamental orientation should be toward others, we must also take care of ourselves and our own needs. Our first moral responsibility is not be a public liability. This is why they tell you in airline flight crises that you should first breathe into your oxygen mask before you help your neighbor with the oxygen masks. Mahatma Gandhi famously said that the world has the capacity to meet the needs of everyone but not the greed of everyone. The direct implication of Gandhi’s words is that we must hold back on our covetousness and desire for material luxuries. Obviously this is a highly subjective area that defies any generalizations. However, collective norms can inform all of us.
For example, we all know that Americans consume much more energy per capita than most other nations. Is that good or bad? This is difficult to answer, but should serve as an issue for thoughtful reflection which is going on right now in America with the new buzz about sustainability. In conclusion, worldly worship of God is very simple – it is to do your daily work, achieve excellence in it, and serve others through it.
And the corollary of the above is equally important to note: Don’t spend time trying to comprehend God because it knowing God is a humanly impossible task. Why do I say that? It is because we are all human, and no human project escapes the characteristics of history-based humanity, fallible, limited, impure of motives, social, and always situated in a culture, a language and a time. Whereas God is timeless, unlimited, infallible, all encompassing, ingrained of all motives, all cultures, all languages, and all times. Just look at the worlds the Hubble telescope opened for all of us, and that is just a miniscule portion of the infinity that God is.
In summary, the worldly worship of God is simply to seek excellence in your calling/vocation but ensuring that you create (net) value in that pursuit of excellence. And that simply means you produce more than you consume; and also you innovate to make the world better.
Ravi Chinta is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at the Williams College of Business. Ravi has a passion for bringing mission and meaning to business.