22. I’ve Finally Learned How to Fulfill My Duty
By Xincheng, Italy
Almighty God says, “It is through the process of doing his duty that man is gradually changed, and it is through this process that he demonstrates his loyalty. As such, the more you are able to do your duty, the more truth you shall receive, and the more real your expression shall become. Those who merely go through the motions in doing their duty and do not seek the truth shall be eliminated in the end, for such people do not do their duty in the practice of truth, and do not practice truth in the fulfillment of their duty. They are those who remain unchanged and will be cursed. Not only are their expressions impure, but everything they express is wicked” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). “Putting your heart into your duty and being able to take responsibility require you to suffer and to pay a price—it is not enough simply to talk about it. If you do not put your heart into your duty, instead wanting always to exert physical effort, then your duty will certainly not be done well. You will simply go through the motions and nothing more, and you will not know how well you have done your duty. If you put your heart into it, you will gradually come to understand the truth; if you do not, then you will not. When you put your heart into performing your duty and pursuing the truth, you then become gradually able to understand God’s will, to discover your own corruption and deficiencies, and to master all your various states. If you do not use your heart to examine yourself, and focus only on making external efforts, then you will be unable to discover the different states that arise in your heart and all the reactions you have to different external environments; if you do not use your heart to examine yourself, then it will be hard for you to resolve the issues in your heart” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Being Honest Can One Live Out a True Human Likeness). God’s words show us that we have to be attentive, responsible and seek the truth to fulfill our duty. I used to be a person who was careless. I didn’t put much effort into anything. It was the same in the house of God. I wasn’t trying for the best results in my duty. Whenever I encountered something complex that required hard work, I was careless and irresponsible so I was always making mistakes in my duty. Later on I came to understand a little about my own corrupt disposition from God’s words and how to fulfill my duty to meet God’s will, then I could perform my duty responsibly and steadily.
My duty at the time was checking translations into Italian. I was diligent at first and willing to resolve any difficulties that came up. But as time went by, I was faced with a backlog of documents and began to get a bit uneasy, especially when I saw documents with notes in all sorts of colors and masses of periods, commas and other punctuation marks. Every single one had to be checked for formatting and placement. I got restless. I thought, “How much thought will I have to put into this? It’s too much effort.” Then I wouldn’t want to check them so diligently anymore, but would just look them over and make sure they were more or less correct. Sometimes I needed to quiet my mind and really think about whether the translation was accurate, but when I saw a complex sentence structure, I’d make these selfish calculations: “It takes so much effort to deliberate and research every word, and if I come up empty-handed, won’t that be a waste of energy? Forget it, I’ll leave it to someone else for them to take care of.” And just like that, I was carelessly going through the motions in my duty.
Over time, constant problems started cropping up. Other people were finding some capitalization and punctuation errors in documents I’d checked and some of them even had a few words missing from the translation. I felt really bad when I saw that. Someone else saw those little problems right away but I hadn’t when they were right in front of me. And how could there be such glaring omissions? The more I thought about it, the worse I felt. One day after lunch I received a message that said there was a really basic mistake with the singular and plural in a document I’d checked. It felt like a knife through the heart. How could I have been so careless? How could I have overlooked such a basic error? I couldn’t be sure whether or not other documents I’d checked had similar errors. My work was riddled with errors. What was I to do? In my suffering, I hurried to come before God and pray. I reflected on my state and my attitude toward my duty recently.
I read a passage of God’s words: “If you do not put your heart into your duty and are careless, just doing things in the easiest way you can, then what sort of mentality is this? It is one of just doing things in a perfunctory manner, with no loyalty toward your duty, no sense of responsibility, and no sense of mission. Every time you do your duty, you use only half your strength; you do it half-heartedly, do not put your heart into it, and just try to get it over and done with, without being conscientious in the least. You do it in such a relaxed manner that it is as though you are just playing around. Will this not lead to problems? In the end, people will say that you are someone who performs your duty poorly, and that you simply go through the motions. And what will God say to this? He will say that you are not trustworthy. If you have been entrusted with a job and, whether it is a job of primary responsibility or one of ordinary responsibility, if you do not put your heart into it or live up to your responsibility, and if you do not see it as a mission God has given you or a matter with which God has entrusted you, or take it on board as your own duty and obligation, then this is going to be a problem. ‘Not trustworthy’—these two words will define how you go about your duty, and God will say that your character is not up to par. If a matter is entrusted to you, yet this is the attitude you take toward it and this is how you handle it, then will you be commissioned with any further duties in the future? Can you be entrusted with anything important? Perhaps you could be, but it would depend on how you behaved. Deep down, however, God will always harbor some distrust toward you, as well as some dissatisfaction. This will be a problem, will it not?” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Path Comes From Often Pondering the Truth). God observes the hearts of men. Every one of His words struck at my fatal flaw. Then I realized that doing things the easy way in my duty is a perfunctory attitude. There’s no attentiveness in this; it’s just going through the motions and not taking responsibility at all. Thinking back on my performance, whenever something required time and effort, I’d adopt the quickest, least demanding, shortcut method to get it done. I’d do whatever was easiest, saved me the most hassle, or was the least tiring. When there were a lot of new words or difficult grammar points or sentence structures, I wouldn’t make a serious effort to look them up. I’d take the easy route of marking them and asking someone else. When I saw complex notes or needed to carefully check the punctuation, I’d just give them a cursory look and then overlook some problems. I was being careless and shirking my responsibility toward my duty and God’s commission. I only thought about avoiding fleshly suffering. Where was there even a small place for God in my heart?
I later read more of God’s words that said: “For people with humanity, performing their duties just as well when no one is watching should be easy; this should be included in their share of responsibilities. For those without humanity and who are not dependable, performing their duties is a very taxing process. Others always have to worry over them, supervise them, and ask about their progress; otherwise, they will do damage every time you give them a job to do. In short, people always need to self-reflect when performing their duties: ‘Have I adequately fulfilled this duty? Did I put my heart into it? Or did I just muddle through it?’ If any of those things occurred, then that is no good; it is dangerous. In a narrow sense, it means such a person has no credibility, and that people cannot trust him. To put it in broader terms, if such a person always just goes through the motions when doing his duty, and if he is continuously perfunctory toward God, then he is in great danger! What are the consequences of being knowingly deceitful? In the short term, you will have a corrupt disposition, commit frequent transgressions without repenting, and not learn how to practice the truth, nor will you put it into practice. In the long term, as you continuously do those things, your outcome will disappear; that will land you in trouble. This is what is known as not making any major mistakes but constantly making minor ones. Ultimately, this will lead to irreparable consequences. That would be very serious!” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Life Entry Must Begin With the Experience of Performing One’s Duty). Seeing God laying bare the nature and consequences of my carelessness before me, I couldn’t help but feel scared. Going through the motions in my duty is deceiving both others and God. This attitude is condemned by God. If I didn’t repent, sooner or later I’d commit a serious transgression and be eliminated by God. When the church made arrangements for my duty, I made a solemn vow to perform my duty properly, but when it actually required me to make an effort, I was mindful only of the flesh, fearing trouble and suffering. I was cursory and careless when I checked the documents, so I missed even the most obvious errors. Wasn’t that cheating? These thoughts filled me with regret and self-blaming, so I prayed to God: “Almighty God! I haven’t been responsible in my duty, but have been trying to fool You. This is disgusting to You. I’ve been so lacking in conscience. God, I want to repent. Please guide me, give me the will to endure hardship and the ability to forsake the flesh and fulfill my duty.”
In every document after that, I’d check every word I saw that wasn’t quite apt in multiple dictionaries. I’d ask brothers and sisters or a professional translator when I couldn’t be sure until I was completely clear. For documents that were difficult and long, I wouldn’t dare just go through the motions and muddle through them, but I’d carefully consider each sentence repeatedly and in detail, trying my best to increase the accuracy of the translation. When finalizing a document, I’d list all the details I needed to check and constantly remind myself that every step needed to be considered thoroughly. I’d check every detail when finalizing and try my best to reduce the number of errors at the final stage. After some time, I was clearly getting better results in my duty and my error rate went down also.
Another sister joined the team later who helped standardize the formatting of the finalized translations. She’d ask me from time to time, “Is this punctuation mark right? What’s the deal with that punctuation?” When she asked a lot of questions, I’d get quite annoyed and think, “It’s too much trouble explaining everything. Just go by the finalized document.” So I just fobbed her off and said: “This is the finalized document. There aren’t any problems with the punctuation. Punctuation in Italian and English are basically the same. Most of it can be handled like English, but there are exceptions. You have to consider the meaning.” Then she asked me, “Our current reference books are the kinds professionals use. I don’t understand some parts. Do we have any document which gives a general guide to Italian punctuation?” I said we didn’t yet. After that I figured I should create a document that new members could refer to, but there were so many punctuation marks. That would mean checking the reference books and would be too much of a hassle. I put it off for the time being. I thought that would be the end of the matter, but when she handled the Italian punctuation like English like I told her in her formatting, she went ahead and deleted all the spaces before and after the dashes in a document over 150,000 words long. I was just stunned when I found out. In Italian, there must be a space before and after a dash to avoid mixing dashes up with hyphens, which is different from English. But I didn’t tell her about that. There was nothing for it. She had to go back through and correct each one. I felt so bad and regretful. I hated myself and thought, “Why didn’t I just put in a little effort in the first place to make a reference document? Why was I always thinking of the flesh and so afraid of hassle? She had to go through it again all because of my carelessness. It had to be verified again too. That took effort, and the main thing is that it delayed our work progress. Wasn’t that disrupting the work of God’s house?” Those feelings of indebtedness, self-blame and regret welled up again. I just wanted to slap myself across the face. I thought, “Why am I just making do again? What’s wrong with me?”
One time in my devotionals, I came upon a passage of God’s words: “Is it not something within a corrupt disposition to handle things so flippantly and irresponsibly? What thing? It is scumminess; in all matters, they say ‘that’s about right’ and ‘close enough’; it is an attitude of ‘maybe,’ ‘possibly,’ and ‘four-out-of-five’; they do things perfunctorily, are satisfied to do the minimum, and are satisfied to muddle along as they can; they see no point in taking things seriously or striving for precision, and they see less point in seeking principles. Is this not something within a corrupt disposition? Is it a manifestation of normal humanity? To call it arrogance is right, and to call it dissolute is also entirely apt—but to capture it perfectly, the only word that will do is ‘scummy.’ Such scumminess is present in the humanity of a majority of people; in all matters, they wish to do the least possible, to see what they can get away with, and there is a whiff of deceit in everything they do. They cheat others when they can, cut corners when they are able, and are loath to spend much time or thought considering a matter. So long as they can avoid being revealed, and they cause no problems, and they are not called to account, they think all is well, and thus they muddle forward. To them, doing a job well is more trouble than it is worth. Such people learn nothing to mastery, and they do not apply themselves in their studies. They want only to get the broad outline of a subject and then call themselves proficient at it, and then rely on this to muddle their way through. Is this not an attitude people have toward things? Is it a good attitude? This sort of attitude that such people adopt toward people, events, and things is, in a few words, ‘to muddle through,’ and such scumminess exists in all of corrupt mankind” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (9)). God’s words incisively pointed out the root of my lack of effort in my duty: My scumminess was too serious, and I did everything with a perfunctory and deceitful attitude. When the sister asked me about the proper use of punctuation, I didn’t want the hassle. I didn’t take it seriously and didn’t want too many questions, so I just fobbed her off by telling her to follow a simple rule. And when she asked me about the reference document, I could have made one for her, but when I thought about the cost in terms of my own suffering, I decided not to bother. I was worried about mistakes cropping up, but I still decided to cheat my way through it. It would have been great if I’d saved the effort and things had gone fine. Every time I did things without effort, I was relying on luck to muddle through. I was always looking to use the minimal amount of effort to get by. I wasn’t making a real, honest effort to fulfill my duty by considering every single detail and doing my utmost to ensure there were no mistakes. It looked like I was working, and I was answering questions, but in reality, I was just fooling that sister and being sly. As a result, she trusted my answers and made some serious errors and exhausted herself on fruitless work. She even had to redo huge amounts of work, which slowed down overall work progress and brought losses to the work of the church. The principle behind my actions, to do the easiest, most hassle-free thing, was a principle of harming people. I was using petty tricks to save effort in the short term. I hadn’t suffered physically, but my transgressions in my duty were nonstop and disrupted the work of God’s house. I was harming others and myself! I was tasked with such an important job, but I took it lightly, and was perfunctory, irresponsible, deceitful, and careless, and dismissive of the consequences. I didn’t have the slightest conscience. Only then did I see how serious my scumminess was, how lowly my integrity was, and how worthless I was.
Later on I watched a video of a reading of God’s words. Almighty God says, “If people cannot express what they ought to express during service or achieve what is inherently possible for them, and instead fool about and go through the motions, they have lost the function that a created being should have. Such people are what are known as ‘mediocrities’; they are useless refuse. How can such people properly be called created beings? Are they not corrupt beings that shine on the outside but are rotten within? … Who could your words and actions be worthy of? Could it be that such minuscule sacrifice of yours is worthy of all I have bestowed upon you? I have no other choice and have been wholeheartedly devoted to you, yet you harbor wicked intentions and are half-hearted toward Me. That is the extent of your duty, your only function. Is this not so? Do you not know that you have utterly failed to perform the duty of a created being? How can you be considered a created being? Is it not clear to you what it is you are expressing and living out? You have failed to fulfill your duty, but you seek to gain the tolerance and bountiful grace of God. Such grace has not been prepared for ones as worthless and base as you, but for those who ask for nothing and gladly sacrifice. People such as you, such mediocrities, are utterly unworthy of enjoying the grace of heaven. Only hardship and interminable punishment shall accompany your days! If you cannot be faithful to Me, your fate shall be one of suffering. If you cannot be accountable to My words and My work, your outcome will be one of punishment. All grace, blessings, and the wonderful life of the kingdom shall have nothing to do with you. This is the end you deserve to meet and a consequence of your own making!” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Difference Between the Ministry of God Incarnate and the Duty of Man). God’s words say, “I have no other choice and have been wholeheartedly devoted to you, yet you harbor wicked intentions and are half-hearted toward Me. That is the extent of your duty.” These words pierced my heart. God gave me the chance to perform my duty, so I could seek and gain the truth through my duty, cast off my corrupt disposition and be saved by God. But instead of seeking the truth, I just cared about the flesh, fobbing off and deceiving God. I thought of how God became flesh to save humankind, enduring enormous humiliation and pain, pursued and persecuted by the government, condemned and rejected by people, but He always expresses the truth and works to save people. Our caliber is lacking so we understand the truth slowly. Not only has God not forsaken us, but He fellowships with us seriously from every angle. He explains all truths in great detail. He tells stories, gives examples and uses metaphors to help us understand. Some truths are complex and touch on many things, so God breaks them down and gives us outlines. He patiently and systematically guides us to understand the truth bit by bit through fellowship. We can see that God takes great responsibility for our lives. But then how did I treat my own duty? I thought that putting in more thought and effort wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t being serious or responsible when reviewing documents. I’d take the path of least resistance without looking at the outcome or the consequences. I’d been taking God’s commission lightly, just skating through. Where was my conscience? I deserved God’s punishment. But God never gave up on saving me. He used His words to enlighten me and lead me, help me know myself and understand God’s will. If I kept slacking off and going through the motions in my duty, I wouldn’t deserve to live or be called human. So I prayed to God: “Almighty God! My scumminess is too serious. I’m not willing to carry on living in this shameful and undignified way. Please give me the strength to practice the truth so that I can live out a true human likeness and fulfill the duty of a created being.”
Later, I read God’s words: “As a human, to accept God’s commission, one must be devoted. One must be completely devoted to God, and cannot be half-hearted, fail to take responsibility, or act based on one’s own interests or moods; this is not being devoted. What does being devoted refer to? It means that while fulfilling your duties, you are not influenced and constrained by moods, environments, people, matters, or things. ‘I have received this commission from God; He has given it to me. This is what I’m supposed to do. I will therefore do it regarding it as my own affair, in whichever way yields good results, with importance laid on satisfying God.’ When you have this state, you are not only being controlled by your conscience, but devotedness is also involved. If you are only satisfied with getting it done, without aspiring to be efficient and achieve results, and feel that it is enough simply to put forth some effort, then this is merely the standard of conscience, and cannot be counted as devotion. When you are devoted to God, this standard is a bit higher than the standard of conscience. This, then, is no longer just a matter of putting forth some effort; you also must put your entire heart into it. You must always regard your duty as your own job to do, take burdens for this task, suffer reproach if you make the slightest mistake or if you are slipshod in the slightest, feel that you cannot be this kind of person, because it makes you so indebted to God. People who genuinely have sense fulfill their duties as though they are their own jobs to do, regardless of whether anyone is supervising. Whether God is happy with them or not and no matter how He treats them, they always have strict demands of themselves to fulfill their duties and complete the commission with which God has entrusted them. This is called devotion” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. People Can Only Truly Be Happy by Being Honest). God’s words showed me a path of practice. We can’t go by our mood and preferences in our duty, doing whatever we want. We can’t just muddle through when something requires hard work, but we should treat our duty as God’s commission, as our own responsibility. We should put in thought and effort for the best results. However difficult, whether we’re being supervised or not, we should always carry out our duty with all our heart, mind and strength. When I recognized this, I prayed to God, willing to repent and practice according to God’s words. Afterward, I made the time to create a document on punctuation use in Italian for new members to refer to. After that I summarized common problems encountered in translations and listed out everything that required attention. I would check this during document review so nothing would be missed. And when a brother or sister asked me a question on their duty, I wouldn’t just take a cursory look and use my imagination to answer, but carefully consider their question, apply the principles and look for professional knowledge I could use to answer them. When I didn’t understand something, through actual effort coupled with enlightenment and guidance from God, I’d gradually understand it. I also reflected a lot on my incorrect motives in my duty. Whenever I encountered difficulties and wanted to just skate through, I would pray to God to forsake the flesh so I could resolve those issues with the true amount of effort needed. Gradually, my attitude in my duty was corrected significantly and I was muddling through things less. I became able to perform my duty in a steady manner. This change in me was entirely the result of God’s judgment and chastisement. Thanks be to God!