To examine this subject, I’m going to ask you to imagine being in a situation where you decide to give up your life to God. I’m going to claim that the most valuable resource God has given you to achieve what he wants of you is, you. We can probably agree on the fact that you have only one life, and no second chance to get it back if there turns out to be some error in your assessment of the thing for which you sacrificed your life. A question thus presents itself: How can you be absolutely certain that this sacrifice is, in fact, for God?
Let’s imagine two scenarios.
Scenario One: Your social, economic and political situation is abysmal. You are overcome with despair; you have given in to the victim role. You have decided – prompted by the thoughts of others, or independently – to put a dramatic end to your life, taking with you a large number of those whom you believe – possibly rightly – to be the reason for your misery. Does this count as dying for God? Think, then think again. Isn’t there a possibility that the self here is the leader in this enterprise? The signs of ego are everywhere, pressing you to achieve its own ends in defiance of, not in accordance with, what God wills.
Profiting at God’s Expense: By ‘profit’, I mean that your self rejects the challenges you face in life as part of God’s destiny, and tempts you with what seems like an offer you can’t refuse: Why not get rid of all life’s pain, suffering and difficulties, while receiving an ironclad contract to paradise? And the price is cheap – a few seconds of suffering while dying! We allow our minds to be seduced and surrender completely to the Self’s blandishments, rechristening our decision to withdraw from life and reject God’s Destiny “dying for God.” We accept the falsification practiced by the Self so as to believe this new nomenclature.
Scenario Two: Your social, economic and political situation is abysmal. You don’t give up. You do everything within your power: you work hard, you struggle, you innovate, to change things for you and yours, and for those around you. You are creating a new paradigm: living for God. After years of unrelenting toil, you achieve it; alternatively, you work towards it all your life, but die before achieving it. Which of these two scenarios, in your opinion, is undertaken for God, and which is undertaken for the Self?
Let’s think and examine both. Each of the above scenarios has its own form and content. The drama of Scenario 1 is certainly impressive and final, but the content is dubious. Scenario 2, while lacking an impressive blaze of glory, is actually closer to achieving what God intended for you. The first question I ask myself to make sense of my actions, and which I ask you to ask yourself as well, is, “Where is God in this? Where is God’s purpose?”
Since God doesn’t need anything, being the Owner of everything, and since he sent others to us so that we might love them and treat them well in him, seeking and finding God’s purpose through others, I shall add another question: “Where is the Other in this? Where is their best interest? Does the best interest of others supersede mine or the reverse?”
If you ask yourself these questions in Scenario 1, requiring you to give up your life for God, it may help you make sense of the main motivator behind it. You do, though, need to strip your contemplation of all extraneous matter, so as to limit your question to two possibilities: the almighty, and the self. Then, seek your answer before him, with him and only him. Imagine, analyze, think, enumerate, and strip away all noise – then seek your answer.
Before I leave you to think of the above, dear reader, I will leave you with two additional questions. Do you imagine that dying for God, doing your very best to withdraw from life with all haste and speed, out of desperation, rage or fear, is the same as dying (sooner or later, it makes no difference in my opinion) after a life spent in doing everything you possibly can to secure a life lived for God for you and yours and for those around you?
Do you think Scenario 1 is a genuine attempt to fulfill God’s purpose for his sake, or an attempt to fulfill it for your own? And what’s the difference? The difference is immense: the former is a use of your own self in the service of God, while the latter is a use of God in the service of yourself. What a difference!
The Self is slippery and tricky: beware its deceptions! Not only could it ruin your life, but it could ruin your afterlife – so beware! Remember, the Self can subvert the nobility of dying for God into dying for self. Dying for God in the service of the self, individual or collective, is the ego’s ultimate triumph. Dying for God, I believe, can only be achieved through your struggle to find a life for God for you and yours, and for others. Anything else is a rejection of God’s destiny, and a withdrawal from life.
The issue of death under self-centeredness is food for thought.