Chapter 6 — Open Channel
Do you suppose anything can interfere with the flow of good from God to you?
Do you think anything is interfering with that flow? Do you wish you might receive more of some good than you are receiving? Are you free from disappointments and discouragements?
Could your child—your boy or girl—refuse to receive a gift that you wished to give to him or to her? Or could that child do something that would seriously interfere with your giving that gift? Not because you would cease to want to give, but because the child’s action would make the giving difficult?
What would it most likely be that would make giving a gift to your child difficult for you? Would it be some form of ingratitude on his part, some disobedience, some disrespect, some rebellion? Would it make you hesitate in giving, if you should see your boy or girl do something unkind or cruel to somebody else? If you should see in your son a persistent inclination to injure other people, would your impulse to give him the things you knew he wanted be just as compelling as ever? Suppose you had specially told him that the one thing you wanted him to do was to show good will to neighbors, friends, business acquaintances, strangers; and suppose he regularly showed them unkindness, and dealt them injury behind their backs?
Of course, your boy or girl never does such things. But do you know anybody’s child who does? Does such conduct seem to you a good reason why the child’s parent should hesitate about granting his son or daughter special favors, special gifts, satisfying his or her heart’s desires, granting his or her urgent requests?
Suppose the child who asked and did not receive the favor or the gift from his father that he greatly wanted should try to learn why. Do you suppose it would ever occur to him to think that his own conduct had anything to do with it? Do you suppose he might suspect that, though his father certainly loved him well, and though his father provided regularly for most of his wants, and though his father gave him constantly many things that he needed and wanted, still it might be just possible that he, the son, made it hard for the father to give him the special gifts, the great things, the marked favors, the “heart’s desires” because of deliberate disobedience to and disregard of the father’s special requests?
Well, if I am not getting from my heavenly Father just what I want most to get, does it ever occur to me that I may not be doing the things He specially asks me to do? What does He ask me to do? Why, to show good will to neighbors and acquaintances and strangers—doesn’t He? Well, do I show good will?
Oh yes, I am polite to other people. I show them ordinary courtesies. I even do favors sometimes for people to whom I think I owe nothing. I do quite a lot of creditable things when I am in their company—to their faces. But what do I do in their absence—behind their backs? Do I show them good will then? Am I the kind that is a friend to a man’s face, and an enemy behind his back? That is, do I show him a face of good will, and then knife him from behind? Do I give attention to his bodily ease and his pleasure in company, and then stab him in the reputation when he isn’t looking? Do I salve him with flattery when he is in a position to defend himself, and then set the fire of ridicule going among his friends when he is off guard?
Do I, for instance, lead the applause at the luncheon or the club meeting, where Bill Johnson speaks, and slap him on the back afterwards and tell him it was great—and then whisper to Smith on the way out, “Well, old Bill was just as great a bore as usual. I wonder if his wife never tells him to get some new stories?”
Do I, for instance, congratulate Jim Smith on his promotion to the place of general manager—and then tell Tom Warren, “Yes, Smith got the job all right, but he won’t last long. He’s a slave driver.”
Do I, for instance, talk public-spiritedly about standing shoulder to shoulder in time of business stress, and then tell Ken Travis that Tom Warren will bear watching and that “he is sure to trim you if you are not careful.”
Do I, for instance, comment with a grin on Jessup’s frayed tie, or Halley’s grammatical break, or high words I overheard between Sanders and his wife, or the grass that grows up through Hemming’s front walk, or Brown’s pallid paunchiness, or Lane’s rotten old pipe, or Barnes’s impudent children, or Perry’s long fish story, or Bell’s embarrassment when called on to speak at the church supper? Do I go around making good stories out of the failings of other people, getting laughs at their expense, cutting their reputations to ribbons, scorching their friendships to raise a laugh? Do I?
Well, my Father particularly asked me not to do that sort of thing, didn’t He? Didn’t He say, first, through my Elder Brother, “Judge not”? Then didn’t He say, “Love one another,” and whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you . . .”? Didn’t He? Well, just why do I disobey and disregard His special requests? Do I expect that it is going to make it easier for Him to give me mine?
Basil King, in his remarkable book “Faith and Success,” tells of an almost miraculous change in his fortunes, when he stopped doing little unkindnesses behind people’s backs. It was a singularly honest and singularly helpful confession. He said he came to the conclusion that the channel between him and God—or rather between God and him—was like other channels, more often filled up with silt than with great falls of rock, and that the silt that fills up the God channel is made up of what we think of as “little” sins—little meannesses, little bits of unkind ridicule, little bits of gossip, little unfavorable comments, little offenses against the law of love, while it great” sins like stealing and killing are rare among us. But “silt”—a lot of it, gathering by slow accretion—may fill up the channel just as effectively as a great fall of rock! Maybe a lot more effectively.
But who says that the propagation of scandal or the promotion of ridicule is a little thing? One is stealing a man’s reputation; the other is killing other people’s respect for him! Can I be continually guilty of that kind of stealing and killing and hope that God can find it easy to give me the things my heart cries out to Him for?
Do I not brand myself as an arrant coward when I talk unkindly behind another’s back, saying things unfavorable, whether true or not? Am I not that most despicable of creatures, the snake in the grass? Am I not that most cruel of enemies, the one who injures another unwarned and unaware? Is there any excuse for me? What do you think of me? Do I have to ask you if your opinion of me goes up, if your respect for me increases, when I bring you a discreditable story about somebody you and I know, or when I make a “funny crack” about some mutual acquaintance’ misfortune or weakness? If you are a sound thinking, decent-hearted citizen, you think less of me.
Well, is God a sound-thinking, decent-hearted citizen, or not? How do you suppose He looks at me?
Suppose you say, “But God is not a person, to be offended by my misdoings.”
No, perhaps not—though God is everything that man is, isn’t He? But suppose we say that God is law? Does that make it easier for me to adjust my meannesses, my unkindnesses, my cruelties, to His standards? If God is law, what is that law? Is it the law of love? If so, how can there be any harmony between His ways and mine, if mine are the ways of the snake in the grass? If there is a channel between Him and me, what is that channel for? What is supposed to flow through it? What do I want to flow through it? Good? Well, what chance has good to flow through that channel to me if I stuff it with dirt—the “dirt” I do to others behind their backs?
Maybe there is a revelation in this for you—as I think there was for Mr. King, by his own account. He tells his own story in the book I have mentioned. He says his “luck” changed the very day he stopped dealing in mean gossip and ridicule of others. He says that instead of having to go after the things he wanted, they began to come to him. He was blessed—so much blessed that he had to tell the world about it.
Sometimes we wonder why it is that we do not get the things we pray for, the heart’s desires we cherish, even the good things, the generous, the unselfish things that we want for others only, not at all for ourselves. We can’t understand why God withholds them, why He is so stingy with us, why He doesn’t make good His word, why He doesn’t “open . . . the windows of heaven, and pour” out what we want so much. Well, how can He? Maybe the channel is all clogged up with our “dirt”!
Remember, obscure causes are responsible for the results that we see in the world’s affairs as in the body’s health. “Little” things are more often than not the causes of the great evils. A sliver under the finger nail could spoil a great diplomat’s effectiveness in debate; a corn could ruin a love affair; a blister might sap a hero’s courage; a bad tooth might cause rheumatism in an ankle; too cold a shower on too warm a body might paralyze the spine; a snappish temper at the breakfast table can make a head ache all day—yours or somebody else’s; continual pampering of an appetite can send a man under the surgeon’s knife. Do you think it is a departure from the teachings of Truth to speak in such terms? Truth has to do with the operation of law, not with sentimental notions of poetic justice. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” That is the law. That is the law of love!
Now, talking about a law, or a principle, or a method never got anybody anywhere. If I am not satisfied with what God is doing for me, here is a tip to follow. I can look into this channel of mine, and see what it is filled with. If I am convinced that the channel between God and me cannot be filled up by any means whatever—if I have that rash notion!—I can at least recognize that the channel of good will between other people and me can be filled up most quickly and most surely and most effectively by just the kind of silt we have been talking about. I said a little way back that you might hate me if you discovered me to be a backbiting gossip monger, whether the gossip was about yourself or about somebody else. Well, don’t you suppose that your feeling toward me might interfere with the flow of some of God’s good to me through you? Wouldn’t a closed channel between you and me—closed by my meanness—have anything to do with God’s supply to me? If not the channel between you and me, certainly the channel between some other human agent of God’s distribution of good and me. For God distributes His good through human agents more often than not.
See what it comes to? Why it comes to this: The only way I can serve God is by serving my neighbors. Didn’t Jesus say, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”? God sends me most of my reward through my neighbors! You can be just as hard-boiled about it as you want to be, but you can’t go back of the fact that the good will we get is sure to be proportioned sooner or later, right here on earth—in Kansas or Chicago, or Seattle, or Boston, or Waterbury, or London, or Paris—to the good will we give out. So why not reckon with this element in life—reckon with the fact that great disappointments and frustrations may be due to obscure causes—little things like unkindnesses, white lies, bluffs, evasions, cowardly treacheries—betrayals of Truth! Let us reckon with this idea awhile, and see if results may not amaze us. Results of right action are always amazing!