Q: Do you think there’s a tendency to take a practitioner’s work for granted? If so, how do you see that we can better value it?
A: “Almost before I finish telling the practitioner the problem, I’m writing out a check for the Christian Science treatment I’m about to receive.”
That grateful response came from a friend in a recent conversation. It’s a point of view a little different from the patient who waits until all the other bills are paid at the end of the month, to see if there’s enough money left to pay the practitioner!
When I was a young mother of two, I confess to figuring my finances that way. Yet I instinctively knew the importance of paying the practitioner. Today, when it’s time to pay for prayer treatment, I’ve learned to move it up to the beginning of the month—or sooner.
Mary Baker Eddy gives wise guidance in this area: “Christian Science demonstrates that the patient who pays whatever he is able to pay for being healed, is more apt to recover than he who withholds a slight equivalent for health” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 300). It prompts us to ask ourselves honestly: “Do I give generously in other areas of my life without giving it a second thought—yet when it comes to Christian Science treatment, am I withholding? Am I really valuing this treatment and paying what it’s worth?”
Well, can an actual dollar amount be put on this consecrated work? Not really. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t express our heartfelt gratitude in the form of payment.
In regard to valuing Christian Science treatment, the practitioner might contemplate the same question: Am I really valuing treatment? Am I possibly not reasonably raising my rate for treatment because I don’t feel worthy of a higher one? If I raise my fee, will some patients no longer ask for treatment? Of course it rings true that most practitioners adjust their rates or reduce their price “in chronic cases of recovery” as the Church Manual directs (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 46). No one should go without treatment when in need of help, and some practitioners do carry pro bono cases. But we might need to ask: Who is doing the healing work? Isn’t it God, divine Love? And doesn’t this Love provide for everyone, including the patient and the practitioner?
You may have heard of practitioners who don’t charge for treatment, or those who let the patient determine the payment—but that’s entirely an individual decision. This needn’t stop anyone else, including that newly-listed practitioner, who is perhaps raising a family and paying a mortgage, from charging a suitable rate.
Above all, as either the patient or the practitioner, we have to ask ourselves this: Are we expecting quick, complete healing from today’s treatment? Or are we expecting this case to go on and on? Eddy recommends that each of us “shall strive to demonstrate by his or her practice, that Christian Science heals the sick quickly and wholly” (Manual, p. 92). If someone, through the power of God, healed a cancer in one or two treatments, what would that be worth? What might the charge be for those treatments? What would someone on the receiving end of that work pay for those treatments?
Setting a suitable fee is between God and the practitioner, and no one can interfere with that holy communing. It’s so important to think deeply and pray wholeheartedly on this subject. Christian Science prayer treatment is at the heart and soul of Christian Science, and we need to make sure that both practitioners and patients are sincerely valuing it. Mary Baker Eddy writes: “These people should not be expected, more than others, to give all their time to Christian Science work, receiving no wages in return, but left to be fed, clothed, and sheltered by charity. Neither can they serve two masters, giving only a portion of their time to God, and still be Christian Scientists. They must give Him all their services, and ‘owe no man.’ To do this, they must at present ask a suitable price for their services, and then conscientiously earn their wages, strictly practising Divine Science, and healing the sick” (Rudimental Divine Science, pp. 13–14).
Being led to the right practitioner for our particular case should come out of our purest, deepest prayer. As we let the Christ activity—infinite, divine Mind—guide our thought as to whom to call on for Christian Science treatment, we can trust that same loving Christ activity to supply whatever is needed. And practitioners can know and affirm that each patient who calls them always has the necessary supply to meet every need. No man, woman, or child is left out.
Under the heading “Practitioners’ Charges” in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Eddy wrote, “Christian Science practitioners should make their charges for treatment equal to those of reputable physicians in their respective localities” (p. 237).
Could she have made it any clearer the value she herself placed on Christian Science treatment?
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, US
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