It is our goal that can tell us in what way we are being neighbors to ourselves and looking after ourselves first. If our goal is to become richer than others solely for the sake of wealth or for pleasure or eminence or anything like that, our goal is evil—we are loving ourselves, not our neighbor. If, however, our goal is to acquire wealth in order to be able to be of service to our fellow citizens, our community, our country, and the church, this is like seeking office for the same reasons, and we are loving our neighbor.
The actual goal of our actions makes us the people we are, because our goal is what we love. For everyone, our goal from start to finish is whatever we love above all else.
All this has been about who our neighbor is. Now I need to discuss what loving our neighbor is, or caring.
Many people believe that love for their neighbor is giving to the poor, providing means to the needy, and doing good to just anyone. In fact, true caring is acting prudently and with the intent that some good will come of it. If we provide resources to evildoers who are poor or needy, we are doing harm to our neighbors through the resources we provide, because those resources will empower the evildoers to do more evil and supply them with greater means of harming others. The situation is the opposite when we provide resources to good people.
Caring, though, applies to much more than just helping the poor and needy. Caring is doing what is right in everything we do, doing our duty in every position of responsibility.
A judge who does what is fair for the sake of fairness is practicing caring. Judges who punish the guilty and acquit the innocent are practicing caring because in doing so they are showing concern for their fellow citizens and concern for their country.
Priests who teach people truth and lead them to do good are practicing caring, if they do so for the sake of truth and goodness. If they do these things for the sake of themselves or for worldly purposes, though, they are not practicing caring, because they are loving themselves rather than their neighbor.
It is the same for others whether they hold some office or not—children toward their parents, for example, and parents toward their children, servants toward their employers and employers toward their servants, subjects toward their monarch and monarchs toward their subjects. If they do their duty for the sake of duty and do what is fair for the sake of fairness, they are practicing caring.
The reason all these things are related to love for our neighbor or caring is that everyone is our neighbor, as just noted, but to differing extents. A community, whether small or large, is more of a neighbor than an individual is, the country is still more of a neighbor, the Lord’s kingdom still more, and the Lord is the neighbor above all. In the most universally applicable sense the goodness that comes from the Lord is our neighbor, and this means that what is honest and fair is our neighbor as well. So people who do anything good because it is good and who do what is honest and fair because it is honest and fair are loving their neighbor and practicing caring. This is because their actions are motivated by a love of what is good, honest, and fair and therefore by a love for people in whom there is goodness, honesty, and fairness.
Caring, then, is an inner desire that makes us want to do what is good, not because we are hoping for a reward but because doing it is the joy of our life.
When we are doing good as the result of an inner desire to do so, caring is present in every detail of what we are thinking and saying, what we are intending and doing. Whether we are angels or people [still on earth], if we hold goodness to be our neighbor, it can be said that in respect to our deeper natures we have become caring itself. That shows how far caring is able to go.
If people set loving themselves and the world as their goal there is no way they can live a life of caring. They do not even know what caring is. Further, they completely fail to grasp the fact that intending and doing good for their neighbor without a goal of being rewarded for it is a heaven inside them—that inherent in this desire there is as great a happiness as heaven’s angels have: more than words can convey. This is because selfish and worldly people believe that if they were deprived of the joy they take in their display of prestige and wealth they would no longer have any joy at all, when in fact that would be the beginning of an infinitely transcendent heavenly joy.
from New Jerusalem, Sections 99-105