The knower as servant (response to Paul Lample)

I’ve been reading Paul Lample’s “Learning and the Evolution of the Bahá’í Community.” He presents various possible roles for the “learned Bahai” in the Bahai community. I found it striking that he did not mention the possibility that the learned Bahai could be a servant, someone who uses knowledge to minister to the faithful.

The starting point seems to me to be

“”Are they equal, those who know, and those who do not know?…” (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, citing Quran 39:12).

We must start here because it is the inequality between those who know and those who do not that creates the issue in the first place. This is not a social inequality, it is inherent in knowing something that is valuable, or not knowing it. But we can also see that the person with a spare dollar is not equal with the person who has no dollar to spare; that the person with a wonderful singing voice is not the equal of the croaker.


The parable of the talents, as depicted in a 1712 woodcut. The lazy servant searches for his buried talent, while the two other servants present their earnings to their master

That leads us immediately to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14, the one that starts:

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another, one…”

and ends

“.. cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.”

We certainly don’t want to go there! So the non-use of knowledge is not an option. Whatever has a use, cannot be left to lie fallow. And it seems to me that the proper use of the knowledge, the dollar or the talent we have is to help our fellows, most especially those in most need of whatever it is we have to offer.

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