Charity Consists in Being Useful

An excerpt from Secrets of Heaven by Emanuel Swedenborg, section #997


People who have charity inside, that is, love for their neighbor (which is the source of any living kind of appeal in the lower pleasures) look at the enjoyment of pleasure solely in terms of its usefulness.


Charity, after all, is nothing without the work of charity. Charity consists in doing—in being useful, in other words. If we love our neighbor as ourselves, we do not feel any delight in charity unless we are being active or useful. As a consequence, the life of charity is a life of usefulness. This is the life found throughout heaven, because the Lord’s kingdom, since it is a realm of mutual love, is a realm of useful activity. Accordingly, all the gratification that charity offers acquires its appeal from usefulness. The more marked the usefulness, the greater the appeal. That is why the essential nature and quality of an angel’s occupation determines the kind of happiness the Lord gives him or her.


The situation is the same with all lower pleasures; the more marked their usefulness, the greater their appeal. Take for a single example the pleasure that married love entails. Because this pleasure provides the breeding ground for human society and through it for the Lord’s realm in the heavens, and because this is the most important function there is, it holds within it such ecstasy that it is, as they say, heavenly bliss.


Circumstances are similar for all other kinds of gratification, with variations due to the importance of the service they perform. Those services are so richly varied that it would be hard to break them down into their major and minor categories. They all look toward the Lord’s kingdom, that is, to the Lord, some more closely and directly and others more distantly and indirectly.


This again leads to the conclusion that all kinds of lower pleasures are granted to us, but only for the sake of their use, and that as a result, because of the use the perform, each in its own way is brimming and alive with heaven’s happiness.

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