In our ritual we are taught “to encourage industry and reward merit; to supply the wants and relieve the necessities of brethren” to the utmost of our power. As Freemasons we are to serve the lodge and others as best as we can:
Men differ in nature, heredity and opportunity, but above all, in the ability to make full use of their talents or to overcome their disabilities. We can all, however, do our best with what means we have; the greater a man’s wealth, or the greater his intelligence and ability, then the greater his responsibility. We must work with the full length of our cable tow. (Henderson, 1996)
Universal brotherhood under the fatherhood of the Deity is one of the aims of Freemasonry. Therefore, we have no barriers as to creed or race when admitting members. This essentially means that we forget about ourselves, sacrifice any prejudices we may have and join with the true Freemasons in love, faith and friendship. As Freemasons we should stand as real men, true and willing to serve others while abandoning our own pursuits. There’s nothing wrong with having personal ambitions and goals, but we should be willing to put them aside in the true spirit of service:
Indeed, this willingness to slow down one’s own spiritual progress to help another is the essence of self-sacrifice, and has been the guiding principle which has inspired all the great spiritual teachers of the world in their efforts to advance the well-being of struggling humanity. Now it is important to realise that this spirit of self-sacrifice succeeds to “square conduct.” In other words, it is only when a man has learnt to be just to his fellow men that he can realise the next lesson, which is that he must be more than just, he must give up his own rights to help others. There would be nothing unjust in his outpacing his companions, but it would be selfish, or at any rate self-centred. (Ward, 1926)
One of the aspects of Freemasonry is that age old theme of how to die and be reborn into something more. Self-sacrifice is most apparent in Masonic ritual and also leads into five points of fellowship that all masons should observe – greeting each other as brothers; supporting each other in all our laudable undertakings; the posture of our daily supplications shall remind us of each other’s wants; our lawful secrets when entrusted to each other as such, we will keep as our own; and we will support each other’s character in absence as well as in presence. It’s a sad day when a candidate goes through the motions, becomes a master mason, but fails to service others because the other lodge brothers neglected him:
In our modern civilisation, with its speed and turmoil, men are often extremely isolated. It is no longer as easy to make friends or to get to know each other intimately as it was in the days when people were born in small towns and lived there most of their lives. Unless someone makes it his special task to bring the members into close touch with each other the new initiate is likely to remain a brother in name only, for the rest of his life. (Ward, 1926)
Brotherhood means service to each other and the lodge. Whenever possible, we should join in with whatever activities or causes the lodge promotes. How can we wear a ring and call ourselves Masons if we don’t live like it? It’s true that you have to put your job and family first, but whenever possible we should choose to help our brethren in their endeavors as well:
It is so easy to put off doing the altruistic deed which our conscience tells us is required but which necessitates some self-sacrifice of time, if not of money. There is much to be said for the maxim of the boy scout, that we should not be content to lie down to rest at night unless we have at least one fresh good deed to our credit, but we should remember that not only is this a minimum qualification, but it is one intended for boys, not men. The Mason, if he is sincere, should strive to do his duty and, if that were possible, a little more than his duty, on every day which he lives. (Ward, 1926)
One of the reasons Freemasonry exists is to promote the progress of society and serve humanity. When a lodge meeting finishes we feel positive, and that is when we should take that positive feeling and put it towards the benefit of mankind. A lot of people are missing that kind of feeling in their life, which is one of the reasons they go to lodge in the first place. For how can we help others if we can’t even help ourselves:
To serve and do good to as many as possible – there is nothing greater in your fortune than that you should be able, and nothing finer in your nature than that you should be desirous to do this. The true Freemason must be and must have a right to be content with himself; and he can be so only when he lives not for himself alone, but for others also. (Unknown, 1925)
The initiate pledges to service and assist their fellow creatures and members of the human family. They are reminded of serving others throughout all three degrees in the lectures and obligations. Especially when they go through the office bearing chairs of the lodge, they learn how to service the lodge as well. We all have our own talents. Some are better at ritual, some are better at charity, and some are better at fellowship. We must find our talent and use it to serve our brothers and mankind as well:
It may be asked what is our allotted task? Until we have satisfactorily answered that question we cannot successfully perform that task. The simplest answer is to do whatever our hand findeth to do and do it with all our might, not for our own advantage, but to the glory of the G. A. O. T. U. and for the welfare of our fellow creatures. But every mason should consider that as a member of the Craft he has a special piece of work to do. He hopes to be a perfect ashlar in the Temple of the Most High, and every ashlar in a building has an allotted place and a definite function. (Ward, 1926)
We are all laborers within the lodge. Some of us bear burdens, some of us execute designs, and some of us plan and organize. No matter what we do, big or small, it all matters in the end. Service to others is likewise service to ourselves:
Gifts of Freemasonry are the opportunities she provides for service other than charity; service in friendships, service to the ill, service to brethren in trouble, service to the Lodge. Nor care that the service to be rendered may not be great. Wordsworth sang: “Small service is true service while it lasts The daisy, by the shadow that it casts, Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun.” As all know who have lived, service to others generates the greatest happiness. He who lives for himself alone, lives miserably. He who lives somewhat for others finds that peace which passeth understanding. (Unknown, 1934)
Always remember that as Freemasons we are charged to lead the world and guide men to the Throne of the Deity, “the highest source of light, so aptly symbolized by the Fire in the Burning Bush that was ever ablaze but never consumed”. A true mason will feel compelled to serve, and people will remember that true service:
But this compelling power of Masonry had taken root in his heart and blossomed into deeds redolent of the sweet odors of charity, and blessed in the sight of Heaven. The influence of this spirit – I might almost say this INSTINCT of brotherhood – in mitigating the horrors of war, is attested by many well known instances, and many more are known only to those who were parties to them. (Robbins, 1869)
Cabigting, Ruben. (2004). Reasons for Entering Masonry. Athens, Georgia.
Harvey, Tony (2009). Scouting and Freemasonry. Wokingham, England.
Henderson, Kent. (1996). The Nature and Purpose of Freemasonry. Excerpted from “Masonic Education Course.” Victoria, Australia.
Robbins, Joseph. (1869). The Self -Sacrificing Spirit. Excerpted from “Masonry’s Scope and Mission,” an oration before the Grand Lodge of Illinois.
Ward, J.S.M. (1926). The Moral Teachings of Freemasonry. London: Baskerville Press.
Unknown. (1925). Charity. Short Talk Bulletin. Masonic Service Association of North America.
Unknown. (1934). Gifts of the Magi. Short Talk Bulletin, Masonic Service Association.