SOMETIMES it's said we live in an era of declining standards. People look back nostalgically to times that they feel included a more universal regard for moral and ethical values, or to better economic times.
If we think of ourselves and others materially, then standards do seem to fluctuate greatly. Yet the material view is not the best standpoint from which to judge. An accurate perspective is gained through prayer, which enables us to perceive man spiritually. Prayer shows us the divine truth that man's standard of being is determined and defined by his relation to God as His reflection and that this relationship is unaltering.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy-the founder of this newspaper-there is a paragraph with the marginal heading "God's standard." It opens by stating: "God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend?" And Mrs. Eddy goes on to write in the next paragraph: "Asking God to be God is a vain repetition. God is 'the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever;' and He who is immutably right will do right without being reminded of His province" (pp. 2-3).
God's own standard, then, is invariably maintained. He is divine Love and pure, spiritual intelligence. These qualities of His being are sustained effortlessly, forever. This assures us that the divinely derived standard of man-whom the Bible says God makes in His image and likeness-is solidly secure. As God's children our true identity reflects His perfection invariably, and is always divinely loving and intelligent.
This spiritually unvarying man is no abstract ideal of little value in the face of concern about changing standards but is our real being. When we are faced with the challenge of moral, economical, or physical decline, it is crucial to understand this. The only real way to arrest the fear of such decline is through prayerful recognition and Christian demonstration of the reality of God's unfallen and unfailing creation, including spiritual man. Willful determination to improve one's lot never enduringly succeeds, while meek demonstration of the Christ-the understanding of man's true, spiritual selfhood, evidenced in Christ Jesus-emphatically alters our experience for the better. Following Christ Jesus' example establishes right thinking and acting in us as individuals, and this in turn leads to increasing morality, consistency of supply, and health. The Bible records how Jesus proved this, reforming even sinners whom religious leaders looked on as lost souls, providing sustenance at times of destitution, and healing the sick.
In fact, the Scriptures contain numerous examples of how the standard of man is sustained in practice by the action of God's law. Deuteronomy, for example, tells us that Moses retained all his physical faculties unabated at the age of 120 years (see 34:7). The book of Ruth records that when Naomi lost her husband and her two sons, her neighbors saw Ruth's unselfed love to her mother-in-law and told Naomi that Ruth, her daughter-in-law, "is better to thee than seven sons" (4:15). And Naaman, a Syrian captain suffering from leprosy, had his health fully restored when he found the humility to wash in the river Jordan according to instructions given to him by the prophet Elisha (see II Kings, chap. 5).
All these give evidence of the true, undeclining standard of individual man. We, too, can prove more and more of the continuity of good in our own lives. To the degree we actively embody such spiritual qualities as meekness and love to the exclusion of self-centered thinking and living, we will evidence the standard that is inviolable and invariable, the standard of spiritual perfection sustained by Spirit, God. By prayerfully discerning more and more of our own and everyone else's true perfection, we express more of that perfection in practice. In this way we are living up to the undeclining standard of God's idea, man.