Whenever I pray about a world problem, it helps me feel less abstract in my prayers if I can see how to purify my own heart on that particular issue, even in a small way. Christ Jesus encouraged his followers, “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Mary Baker Eddy follows up on this theme when she directs the Christian healer to “learn what in thine own mentality is unlike ‘the anointed,’ and cast it out; then thou wilt discern the error in thy patient’s mind that makes his body sick, and remove it, and rest like the dove from the deluge” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 355).
So recently, with corruption prevalent in the news, I began to pray about this topic and to consider in what ways I could rule corruption out of my own thoughts. The first inspiration I had was Paul’s statement, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3). Well, this hit home right away. On the surface, I could see how often the busyness of human life made things feel anything but simple, and I saw how I sometimes let myself become more absorbed in human details instead of spiritual mindedness, which the Bible tells us is “life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
I saw how I sometimes let myself become more absorbed in human details instead
of spiritual mindedness, which the Bible tells us is “life and peace.”
But even deeper, I could see how I needed to be alert that I wasn’t tempted to “sell out” to the evidence of the physical senses—bowing down to the arguments of pain, fatigue, and fear, instead of trusting the Word of God, trusting the simple and powerful fact that God is All-in-all. I knew that if someone offered to give me all the money on earth to quit my practice of Christian Science, the practice of witnessing to God’s allness, I would flatly reject the offer. And yet, I could see that sometimes I was still subtly being corrupted by entertaining mortal mind’s “bribes,” by taking in sneaky thoughts that perhaps something else can take better care of me than God, and that I am beholden to the material laws of hygiene, medicine, diet, and exercise.
Then I recalled what Christ Jesus faced when he was tempted of the devil, and I wondered if this account in the Bible might lead me to see more clearly how the appeal of corruption operates, and how to defend myself from it (see Matthew 4:1–11). As I prayed and reasoned through each of the three temptations mentioned in the Bible story, here’s what came to me. Each temptation paired with a concept that I addressed in my prayers:
1. Turning stones into bread: expediency
Christ Jesus had been fasting for forty days and forty nights and was understandably hungry. He had always trusted God to provide for his human needs in the time and in the way that expressed God’s natural law of unfoldment. But extreme need might, in this case, have tempted him to find a more expedient way of having his needs met, one that indulged self-will and the manipulation of matter. Jesus apparently quickly saw the egotism of this thought, though, and rejected it, saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Later, Jesus would feed thousands of people in the wilderness with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish (see Matthew 14:14–21), but that unselfed act of demonstrating the ever-presence of Love’s ability to meet the human need had no taint of willfulness or manipulation to it.
2. Jumping off the Temple: risk-taking
Jesus had no need to test the care of God by taking this risk. The old theological belief that God takes care of man under some circumstances, but not all of them, and that man is separate from God, could have tempted Jesus to believe that he needed to push the edges of that care—to find its limits so he wouldn’t be at risk of beginning his healing ministry by promising people more than God could really deliver on. But Jesus’ whole life was based on man’s oneness with God. His declaration, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30), was a declaration of his individual spiritual identity as the Son of God, forever at one with God. So Jesus rejected this temptation on the basis of a care that results from unfailing oneness, not capricious intervention. In future times, Jesus would be protected from an angry mob intent on stoning him (see John 8:59), and then supported throughout the crucifixion until he was resurrected and ascended (see Luke, chaps. 22–24). There was no egotism of testing God in these later experiences, but complete dependence on his saving divine Principle.
3. Being captivated by “all the kingdoms of the world”: power and wealth
Jesus had shown no interest in power and wealth, and yet as he approached the beginning of his ministry he was tempted to worship the devil, evil, in order to gain personal glory. But this suggestion was summarily dismissed by Jesus—“Away with you, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10, New Revised Standard Version). Jesus must have known that all good comes from God, and not from the carnal, mortal mind, or materialistic means and methods, because if the reverse were true, these would be more powerful than God. Later, Jesus proved that he had complete authority and dominion over every political, medical, and theological claim to power, when he healed the sick and sinning and raised the dead through God’s all-power.
Expediency, risk-taking, and worshiping evil, or the power of the carnal mind, to gain power and wealth—these rang true to me as the root of the appeals to corruption I had faced. For example, I have heard arguments in my thought that it’s OK to break rules because my important activity justifies it, or that plowing through the red tape of a certain process by cutting corners is the best way to go. I have also been tempted to behave in ways that I knew were risky, in hopes that my understanding of God would save me from any ill effects. But I am seeing more clearly that these suggestions coming to us and others are the seeds that can grow into corruption at the global level, and that healing them in my own heart is an important precedent for seeing them healed for the world.
The simplest, most expedient, secure and abundant good that we could ever have is in our oneness with God. Mary Baker Eddy lays out this simplicity when she writes, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry,—whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (p. 340).
Each of us can reject the various appeals of egotism that would have us leave the “simplicity that is in Christ.” In this way, we can significantly contribute to the healing of corruption.
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