“Come hither unto me!” Strange! For human compassion also, and willingly, does something for them that labor and are heavy laden; one feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, makes charitable gifts, builds charitable institutions, and if the compassion be heartfelt, perhaps even visits those that labor and are heavy laden. But to invite them to come to one, that will never do, because then all one’s household and manner of living would have to be changed. For a man cannot himself live in abundance, or at any rate in well-being and happiness, and at the same time dwell in one and the same house together with, and in daily intercourse with, the poor and miserable, with them that labor and are heavy laden! In order to be able to invite them in such wise, a man must himself live altogether in the same way, as poor as the poorest, as lowly as the lowliest, familiar with the sorrows and sufferings of life, and altogether belonging to the same station as they, whom he invites, that is, they who labor and are heavy laden. If he wishes to invite a sufferer, he must either change his own condition to be like that of the sufferer, or else change that of the sufferer to be like his own; for if this is not done the difference will stand out only the more by contrast. And if you wish to invite all those who suffer—for you may make an exception with one of them and change his condition—it can be done only in one way, which is, to change your condition so as to live as they do; provided your life be not already lived thus, as was the case with him who said: “Come hither unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden!” Thus said he; and they who lived with him saw him, and behold! there was not even the least thing in his manner of life to contradict it. With the silent and truthful eloquence of actual performance his life expresses—even though he had never in his life said these words—his life expresses: “Come hither unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden”! He abides by his word, or he himself is the word; he is what he says, and also in this sense he is the Word.
“All ye that labor and are heavy laden.” Strange! His only concern is lest there be a single one who labors and is heavy laden who does not hear this invitation. Neither does he fear that too many will come. Ah, heart-room makes house-room; but where wilt thou find heart-room, if not in his heart? He leaves it to each one how to understand his invitation: he has a clear conscience about it, for he has invited all those that labor and are heavy laden.
But what means it, then, to labor and be heavy laden? Why does he not offer a clearer explanation so that one may know exactly whom he means, and why is he so chary of his words? Ah, thou narrow-minded one, he is so chary of his words, lest he be narrow-minded; and thou narrow-hearted one, he is so chary of his words lest he be narrow-hearted. For such is his love—and love has regard to all—as to prevent any one from troubling and searching his heart whether he too be among those invited. And he who would insist on a more definite explanation, is he not likely to be some self-loving person who is calculating whether this explanation does not particularly fit himself; one who does not consider that the more of such exact explanations are offered, the more certainly some few would be left in doubt as to whether they were invited? Ah man, why does thine eye see only thyself, why is it evil because he is good?4a The invitation to all men opens the arms of him who invites, and thus he stands of aspect everlasting; but no sooner is a closer explanation attempted which might help one or the other to another kind of certainty, than his aspect would be transformed and, as it were, a shadow of change would pass over his countenance.