The great ''dragoon vases'' of Dresden are famous not just for the beauty of their blue and white porcelain, but for the remarkable story that goes with them. In 1717 Augustus the Strong coveted these vases, each several feet high, and acquired them from King Frederick Wilhelm I. In exchange for the vases he gave the king 600 soldiers, or dragoons. This exchange couldn't have done too much for the soldiers' self-esteem!
What a contrast to this devaluation of the individual is Christ Jesus' illustration in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus said: ''Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.'' n1 Jesus was conscious of the intrinsic worth of man, made , as the Bible says, in God's image. He knew that each individual is actually a priceless part of God's creation, forever loved by the Father.
n1 Luke 12:6, 7.
It's easy to see the beautiful qualities expressed by some - the love, the caring, the gentleness. But we need to cultivate, through prayer and through purity of thought, the spiritual vision that discerns everyone's inherent worth, everyone's actual nature, as offspring of God. Our loving and cherishing of the true selfhood of others helps them to express their highest nature.
It's important, while we're recognizing the good in others, that we be alert not to depreciate ourselves. No one need feel inferior, for man is God's loved image and never falls from his state of God-bestowed worth. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''Man's origin and existence being in Him, man is the ultimatum of perfection, and by no means the medium of imperfection. Immortal man is the eternal idea of Truth, that cannot lapse into a mortal belief or error concerning himself and his origin: he cannot get out of the focal distance of infinity.'' n2
n2 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 79.
To cultivate a spiritual view of man certainly doesn't mean that we should ignore sin in ourselves or others. Sin needs to be recognized for what it is - and healed. At the same time, though, we can respect and love the perfect man God has made, even when we don't see in ourselves anything to value. Turning from the commonly accepted belief that man is a failing mortal to the understanding that he is God's unfallen idea, worthy of respect and love, brings hope and reevaluation.
As we correct our view of ourselves, it's easier for others to see this true worth and appreciate it. This is not self-love. Jesus' command ''Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'' n3 was clearly not a recommendation to become self-centered, egotistical. Doesn't it rather point to the need to view everyone , including ourselves, in a more spiritual light as the child of God?
n3 Matthew 19:19.
We may never be traded for a porcelain vase, but we may very well have to meet the criticisms that would tend to lower our self-respect and devalue our worth. What a joy, then, to remember that God sees man as worthy to be loved and forever cherished. DAILY BIBLE VERSE One in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitist him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in sub- jection under his feet. Hebrews 2:6-8