Work for work’s sake. If a man works without any selfish motive in view, does he not gain anything? Yes, he gains the highest. Unselfishness is more paying, only people have not the patience to practise it. It is more paying from the point of view of health also. Love, truth and unselfishness are not merely moral figures of speech, but they form our highest ideal, because in them lies such a manifestation of power.
Man works with various motives. There cannot be work without
motive. Some people want to get fame, and they work for fame.
Others want money, and they work for money. Others want to
have power, and they work for power. Others want to get to
heaven, and they work for the same. Others want to leave a name
when they die, as they do in China, where no man gets a title until
he is dead; and that is a better way, after all, than with us. When a
man does something very good there, they give a title of nobility
to his father, who is dead, or to his grandfather. Some people work
for that. Some of the followers of certain Mohammedan sects
work all their lives to have a big tomb built for them when they die. I know sects among whom, as soon as a child is born, a tomb
is prepared for it; that is among them the most important work a
man has to do, and the bigger and the finer the tomb, the better off
the man is supposed to be. Others work as a penance; do all sorts
of wicked things, then erect a temple, or give something to the
priests to buy them off and obtain from them a passport to heaven.
They think that this kind of beneficence will clear them and they
will go scot-free in spite of their sinfulness. Such are some of the
various motives for work.
Work for work’s sake. There are some who are really the salt of
the earth in every country and who work for work’s sake, who do
not care for name, or fame, or even to go to heaven. They work
just because good will come of it. There are others who do good to
the poor and help mankind from still higher motives, because they
believe in doing good and love good. The motive for name and
fame seldom brings immediate results, as a rule; they come to us
when we are old and have almost done with life. If a man works
without any selfish motive in view, does he not gain anything?
Yes, he gains the highest. Unselfishness is more paying, only
people have not the patience to practise it. It is more paying from
the point of view of health also. Love, truth and unselfishness are
not merely moral figures of speech, but they form our highest
ideal, because in them lies such a manifestation of power. In the
first place, a man who can work for five days, or even for five
minutes, without any selfish motive whatever, without thinking of
future, of heaven, of punishment, or anything of the kind, has in
him the capacity to become a powerful moral giant. It is hard to do
it, but in the heart of our hearts we know its value, and the good it
brings. It is the greatest manifestation of power–this tremendous
restraint; self-restraint is a manifestation of greater power than all
outgoing action. A carriage with four horses may rush down a hill
unrestrained, or the coachman may curb the horses. Which is the
greater manifestation of power, to let them go or to hold them? A cannon-ball flying through the air goes a long distance and falls. Another is cut short in its flight by striking against a wall, and the
impact generates intense heat. All outgoing energy following a
selfish motive is frittered away; it will not cause power to return to
you; but if restrained, it will result in development of power. This
self-control will tend to produce a mighty will, a character which
makes a Christ or a Buddha. Foolish men do not know this secret;
they nevertheless want to rule mankind. Even a fool may rule the
whole world if he works and waits. Let him wait a few years,
restrain that foolish idea of governing; and when that idea is
wholly gone, he will be a power in the world. The majority of us
cannot see beyond a few years, just as some animals cannot see
beyond a few steps. Just a little narrow circle–that is our world.
We have not the patience to look beyond, and thus become
immoral and wicked. This is our weakness, our powerlessness.