In this Sentinel Watch podcast from JSH-Online.com, adapted for print, Rita Polatin talks with Mark Unger, a Christian Science practitioner from Boise, Idaho, who shares his spiritual insights on the subject. To listen to the podcast, first posted last August, please visit sentinel.christianscience.com/the-abundance-of-god-s-goodness.
Rita: This year we saw a record number of people applying for unemployment because of the pandemic, and even though there’s been some improvement, many people still don’t have the necessary funds to meet all their needs. So what I’d like to do is begin by asking you, What have you found from your study and practice of Christian Science that would help solve the situation?
Mark: First of all, my heart goes out to everybody who is struggling, but, with everything in our lives, it seems that we basically have two choices as to how we approach our problems, solve our problems. One choice is to try to deal with things from a material, limited approach. And with this approach, we’re dependent on ourselves, our own limited intelligence and resources, and we are limited in what ideas or options we may come up with, and that can be very stressful and not very successful. So the other choice, which I have found to be a much better and always successful way, is a spiritual approach—reaching out to the creator of the universe, the creator of our lives, to discover what this creator we call God is doing for us and actually has already done for us.
All the abundance of God’s goodness meeting every single human need is right at hand if we are willing to look beyond ourselves to our creator. Our creator has unlimited ideas for us for how to move forward in any situation, to find abundant good, abundant supply of whatever is needed. And that makes me think of a proverb, part of the Wisdom Literature in the Bible, where it says: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
With the first choice, we end up trying to really kind of play God, rather than letting God be God to us. After all, God created us and continues to care for His creation.
It’s clear that when we’re trying to figure it out all by ourselves, that’s hard. As you say, it’s us trying to be the creator or God. So then how do we go about letting God be God?
I have found that the Bible can help us with that. The Bible is full of examples of people turning to God in desperate situations and being taken care of in ways that go beyond a merely human way of thinking about things. And I love the way Jesus started his three-year ministry. The first thing he started preaching, according to the Gospel of Matthew, was: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).
I think he was saying the kingdom of heaven is actually right here, but in order to see it, in order to experience it, you need to repent. And the Greek word for “repent,” metanoeó, means to change your mind for the better. So I think he was saying, If you want to see this kingdom—that God is right here taking care of everything—you need to change your mind for the better. So, we can change our mind and look to God and His spiritual universe.
God, as the Bible tells us, is Spirit. Therefore, since we are created by God, we are spiritual. And so what this tells us in terms of this financial issue, this economic issue, is that there is a divine economy, God’s economy, which is abundant. There’s plenty for all.
To our limited view, there’s just a human economy that gets changed by anything—by a pandemic, by changing laws, by changing leaders. In a way, the human economy can go all over the place. And yet, right at hand is this kingdom of heaven. There is this divine, stable economy in which God is giving His children everything they need every moment. But as Jesus said, we need to repent. We need to change the way we think in order to see this spiritual view.
Part of changing the way we think is to understand that we are spiritual creations of God. As Genesis in the Bible tells us, we’re made in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27). So we have all that God gives.
In fact, that makes me think of a reminiscence from the book We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. 1, by a woman who shared what Mary Baker Eddy said about a time she was needing money, when she first started this worldwide Christian Science movement in the 1800s.
The woman wrote regarding Mrs. Eddy: “ ‘When first establishing this Cause,’ I recall her saying, ‘I needed money, but I have now learned that God is with me, that He gives me everything, and I cannot lack.’ A little later she [Mrs. Eddy] added, as I recollect: ‘When you stand before a mirror and look at your reflection, it is the same as the original. Now you are God’s reflection. If His hands are full, your hands are full, if you image Him. You cannot know lack. I have learned now that He does give us everything’ ” (p. 296).
And I have to say, I have learned now, too, that He does give us everything and more.
Can you share an experience that you had where you really saw that God provided for you?
Actually, I could talk all day about experiences where I turned to God and I found solutions that were far beyond what I could have imagined. I’m thinking of one that I really think illustrates the difference between human will and human planning, and turning to God to do His will and see His plan. And I think this particular experience also illustrates how it works as we start moving down this road of spiritual discovery and learning to turn to God and depend on God.
We may not always get it right the first try, but in the end, we can find the solutions we need and feel the God-given blessings and learn more about how to turn to God and how to quit getting in the way, which is what we seem to do so often with limited thinking and human will. Because God is infinite Love, He will always guide us along like a loving shepherd does with his sheep.
This experience was many years ago. My wife and I were living in the country, and the idea came to us to move back into the city because we felt like we could help more people. So it felt like a God-impelled idea. We put our house up for sale, and month after month went by and nothing. And so, after many months went by, both of us actually had to reach out to God and say, “OK, there was this idea to move, but nothing seems to be happening. What is it that we need to know? What ideas do You have that we’re maybe missing here?” And as we prayed, we remembered that we had planned, before we decided to sell, to paint the house, put some shutters on the outside, and so forth. Once we decided to sell the house, we just stopped.
And as we were praying about this, we thought, “Why shouldn’t we move forward with this idea we had to paint the house and bless the people who would be buying it, instead of thinking in more of a human economic way where we only have so much?” We didn’t have much money at the time, so maybe we needed to hold back, we thought.
Well, that’s not the right approach. God is, again, unlimited. It’s about blessing. It’s about giving. It’s about drawing on an unlimited resource. So we realized, OK, we need to move forward and not just stop the progress of our lives, but keep moving forward with these ideas that we’re getting. So we went ahead and painted the house. And it was fascinating, because this house had been on the market for over a year. Now when I painted the last door, the very next day we got two offers, and we accepted one. It was just incredible.
And that’s actually not the whole story. So the next part was, we were going to move into the city. So now we had a couple months to do that. This is where you learn your lessons, because I started out with a little bit of human will, and I told my wife, “I’m happy to live on the north side or the south side of the city, but I don’t want to live in the valley.” She was OK with that. So we had been looking at houses, and we must have looked at fifty houses, which is a lot. And especially if God is guiding you, why would you have to look at that many houses? And yet we still hadn’t found anything.
So it caused my wife and me to go to God—and mainly me, because I was the one who said I only want to live on the north or south side. And I asked God, “What do I need to know?” And it came pretty clearly to me that I had outlined this whole thing. I wasn’t leaving it up to God. I was thinking I knew best.
And so I realized through my prayer that day that I needed to let go and let God lead, just let God put us in the best place for us and trust that. Like we were talking about how people in the Bible did, how Jesus did, prophets did. They trusted God. So I went to my wife and said, “You know what? I realize that was a mistake for me to outline that way and say I only want to live in certain places. I’m willing to live anywhere—actually in any town, wherever. We have to leave it up to God.” And of course, she was happy about that.
Because God is infinite Love, He will always guide us along like a loving shepherd.
Now, this was amazing. The very next day, once I turned and opened myself up to God, trusting God, my father gave me a call, and he told me about a very interesting experience he had had. He said he was heading downtown. And from his house to downtown is south, but he said, “I found myself driving north, and I couldn’t figure out why.” As he was driving down these streets, he drove by a restaurant, and he was a restaurant owner, so he knew most of the owners in town, and he knew this restaurant had just been purchased by a new owner. And he thought, “Well, since I’m going by here, let me stop in and see if the owner’s here. I’d like to meet him and have a little chat with him.” So he did. And it ended up that he was calling me to tell me that this restaurant owner also had a house for sale in the valley that they had been trying to sell, and now they’d taken it off the market because they couldn’t sell it.
So, we went and looked at the house the next day. And when we had looked at those fifty houses, we had sort of formed this picture of what the perfect house for us would be at that point. We walked into this house. It was the perfect setup, and so we ended up buying it. Another little detail was that we found out that over that last year, the owners had put so much money into this house and made so many improvements, and that was during the year when it came to us to go ahead and keep doing our improvements.
God was preparing that house for us and was preparing our house for somebody else who bought ours, and that’s the way God works. It’s just always abundant. Everybody’s blessed. Again, it’s that divine, unlimited economy that we want to look to from a spiritual perspective, that the kingdom of heaven—harmony, goodness, abundance—is always at hand. And that reminds me of one thing that Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
That makes me think of something that Mary Baker Eddy said in one of her writings: “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 307). And the thing I really love is that you stopped outlining and listened, and the ideas came. And then the quote goes on to say: “Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.” So ideas are always there, and you stop, turn to God, and listen.
That’s exactly right. And I love this, “. . . if you wait, never doubting. . . .” That can be hard. But there again, you go back to the Bible. It has these stories that inspire us to never doubt. And even if we mess up, with a little human will, maybe a little selfishness, a little limitation, God will show us that we just need to look at this differently—spiritually.
Tell me a few other things that might get in our way. Let’s say maybe there’s jealousy. Maybe you see that other people have things that you want, or sometimes you may even feel like maybe you’re not good enough, you don’t deserve to have the good. What are some of the things that stop us from seeing this abundant life that Jesus talked about, this good that God is constantly giving us?
First of all, we do deserve all good. Why can I say that? Why that does make sense is that we are all actually God’s precious children. And if you think about it, wouldn’t any one of us do just about anything we could for our children? Well, God loves His children at least as much, and certainly, as I’ve discovered, more than a human parent can. This is God we’re talking about. He provides us with what we need, when we need it. Because of this, we can say that we do deserve all good.
As far as thinking about being jealous or envious of what somebody else has, again, that’s such a limited way of looking at things. Jesus was certainly not rich by the world’s definition of rich—for example, having a lot of material things. Yet he was undoubtedly the richest man who was ever on this planet. His relationship with God was rich. And I consider my relationship with God as riches that no one could ever take away. I know that God will always be here for me and for everyone, will always take care of every need abundantly. I couldn’t possibly be jealous of anyone and their riches.
Actually, material riches could be gone in a minute. Those kind of worldly riches can cause people much misery, as we’ve seen time and time again. But, again, if we look at things from a spiritual perspective, our relationship with this Almighty God—the comfort that brings, the peace that brings, the contentment that brings, the satisfaction that brings—those are immeasurable, and, on top of those, the abundance of God’s good.
To make the spiritual choice of how we look at things, we find much inspiration and such wisdom on this question from something in the Bible book of First Timothy: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (6:6–11). I just think that is right on.
Something I’ve learned over the years is that we each have our own unique good, because we’re unique to God. And so, sometimes we think there’s only one pie and everybody’s trying to get a slice of the pie. But I’ve learned, in a way, we all get our own individual pie. And what is somebody else’s good is not uniquely for us. So understanding that what God is giving each one of us is uniquely and directly for us as His unique expression, then you’re not wanting what somebody else has.
Yes, and that’s looking at this divine economy, and that’s how the divine economy is set up. In God’s economy, everybody has abundance. God doesn’t take from one to give to the other. And I think that’s illustrated in what I shared about the house that we found. They couldn’t sell the house, and they had tried for months. Apparently it was our house. I’ve lived my life this way, and it’s been so wonderful.
When we start getting into this idea of competition—there’s only so much and we have to compete for it—that’s a very human, limited view of things. But if we realize, if we want a particular job, it’s either our job right now or it’s not—it’s somebody else’s job. We wouldn’t want to be doing somebody else’s job. We want our job—the job that’s exactly tailored for us at this moment, to learn whatever we need to learn, to be in contact with whoever we need to be in contact with, and to be able to share our talents and bless. I’ve just found that to always be the case.
We have to change the way we think from being limited, to embracing the unlimited divine economy where God is in control.
When you think about these times now, when there are so many people out of work, and it seems like many places are closing and not reopening, and so many people are looking for the same type of work, if we take that spiritual choice to know that God is infinite and is not dependent on material circumstances and is 100 percent providing purpose and joy and supply for each one of us uniquely, individually, then will that open up opportunities for each one?
That’s right; that’s what Jesus was teaching. The kingdom of heaven, abundance, is at hand. It’s here. But you have to change the way you think. And the problem is, if we look at the news or the way we’ve been educated, you start cutting pieces out of a pie, and there’s not enough for everybody. But Jesus completely saw the concept of the divine economy, God’s economy, where there’s abundance, there’s plenty. And it’s what you were saying earlier—it’s about ideas.
Think about when Jesus had five thousand-plus people with him (see Matthew 14:15–21). He had been preaching, and then he told his disciples to feed these people. And the disciples said, in essence, “How in the world are we going to do that?” And Jesus said, “What do you have?” And they said, “A few fish and five loaves of bread. How are we going to feed five thousand people with this?” But, Jesus understood that what blesses one blesses all, and Mary Baker Eddy brought that out in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where she explains so well Jesus’ teachings and also makes clear this abundance of God. She said, “In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes,—Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply” (p. 206).
God wasn’t going to give just enough to feed a few. He was going to feed everybody, to give everybody the good that they deserve as His children. And Jesus knew that there was a whole different way of looking at things. And what did he do? He looked to God and gave God thanks. He was thanking God for taking care of everybody, because he knew God would. And he told the disciples to distribute the food to all these five thousand-plus people. And there were twelve baskets of food left over.
There is infinite supply; there’s infinite good. But we have to change the way we think from being limited, to embracing this unlimited, bountiful, divine economy where God is in control.
Where can people go to find this spiritual perspective, to understand God better and their relationship to God and really what the spiritual laws of the universe are? Where can they go to find this?
As I mentioned, it’s all there in the Bible. We see example after example of how people were relying on God that is Spirit, God that is Love. It’s obviously a spiritual approach. The Bible really contains the inspiration that we need.
Just to mention a few other examples—there’s the wonderful story in Genesis of God using Joseph to take care of Egypt and surrounding countries in a time of famine. There’s the example in Exodus of God taking care of the children of Israel during their forty years in the wilderness, giving them everything they needed. There’s the example in Second Kings of the widow woman who had nothing and owed a creditor who was going to take her two sons away to be slaves. And she and her sons were completely taken care of.
There are so many stories that inspire us. There’s also Jesus turning the water into wine at a wedding when they ran short. And Mary Baker Eddy did something similar one time. She was living in Concord, New Hampshire, and there was a dry spell, no rain for a month. And a local farmer who delivered the milk to her home mentioned to the cook of her household that his cows were starting to go dry because his well was empty.
Mrs. Eddy was told of this, and she said, “Oh! if he only knew, Love fills that well.” “Love” here is another name for God. So she was saying God fills his well. He came back the next day and told the cook that he had found his well filled with water that morning, and there hadn’t been any rain to fill it. So you see, it’s not just in Bible times that God takes care of us. And that incident, by the way, can be found in the book Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, on page 177 (Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck).
And as I was saying, the Bible really contains the inspiration that we need. Again, Mary Baker Eddy discovered the deep spiritual meaning of the Scriptures, and so for me, her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has opened up the Bible to really be able to see it in its practicality and to see that the laws that were utilized in the Bible, which Jesus was showing us, are laws that we can actually put into practice in our own lives.
I’ve been practicing these rules and laws that I find in the Bible and that are so clear in Science and Health and in Mrs. Eddy’s other writings, including how we can turn to God, how we can pray. And I’ve studied that book for years and years and years to understand better those laws and rules and how to apply them in my experience. And I have found that it works, and that’s what Jesus was showing us. So we can follow his teachings, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, which is Matthew, chapters 5, 6, and 7. To follow what he said there is really enough to succeed, to have abundance, to live a happy and satisfying life.
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