Our First Duty
(Written especially for young people)
AT our house we all have duties that we do each week. Doing these duties makes our home a nicer, cleaner, more pleasant place to live. Sometimes, though, I have to do chores when I'd rather be doing something else. When I'm not feeling happy about household chores, or other kinds of duties, it helps me to look behind the task itself to see the good that is being accomplished.
For example, no one in our family likes to clean out the cat's litter box. But a litter box that is never cleaned out is pretty unpleasant for everyone--including the cat! ``Necessity'' says that we have to do it. But our family has found an even better reason: as we see that our first real duty is to love God--to love good-- then doing the jobs themselves becomes easier.
As we begin to look for and to value the goodness represented by our task, whether it be orderliness or cleanliness or kindness or beauty or peace, we are loving God's goodness. We are appreciating the nature of God, the things of Spirit, of God. And when we value something, we are willing to make the effort required to make it a part of our life.
Christ Jesus certainly valued and appreciated God. He came to show us that we worship God by being and doing good. His whole life was so full of goodness and good deeds that he is called the Son of God. Citing Moses' familiar teachings from the Old Testament, Jesus said, as we read in Matthew's Gospel, ``Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind'' (22:37; see also Deuteronomy 6:5).
I learned how to make this practical one day when I could tell that it was going to rain very hard. The rain gutters on the roof of our house were full of leaves. My husband usually took care of cleaning out the gutters, but he was not home. I don't especially like climbing up to the roof on cold, rainy days.
But I had been thinking about this idea that our first real duty is to love God--to love good--so I reasoned this way: A cleaned-out rain gutter is good. A rain gutter full of leaves is not so good. To prove that I love good, I should be willing to do what is necessary to make that good evident. In other words, if I was claiming to love God with all my heart and all my soul, and all my mind, as Jesus urges, then I should show this love with my fingers and my hands and my elbows! I should get up on that ladder and get those leaves out of that rain gutter. So I did!
Since that day I have cleaned out many rain gutters. I have also felt happier about a great many other duties that I need to do. I have begun to see these tasks as opportunities to express the nature of God, rather than as simply bothersome demands on my time. To do something because we value and appreciate beauty and order replaces resentment with a quiet kind of joy. It makes us masters instead of servants. (And the grungier the job, the more grateful we can be that it is getting done!)
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, tells us in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``You will learn that in Christian Science the first duty is to obey God, to have one Mind, and to love another as yourself'' (p. 496). One of the ways to obey God is to love Him with our actions.
The next time you have duties to do at school or at home, or anywhere, just remember that your very first duty is to love God, to love and value what is good. I know when I do that I feel a lot better about doing whatever it is I have to do!