People often tend to judge themselves and others from the standpoint of physical appearance. Someone may feel self-assured if he believes he conforms to current worldly standards of attractiveness. And he may feel uncertain, even unimportant, if he doesn't think he measures up to those supposed standards.
The tendency to feel either confident or deflated on the basis of one's physical characteristics is reinforced by the pervasiveness of books, magazines, television shows, and movies that tend to equate happiness and worth with a particular kind of corporeality. And advertisers constantly push products designed to make us more physically attractive.
But are we mainly a corporeal structure? Is our individual worth measured by matter? Is beauty a product of matter? The answer to these questions must be ''no'' if we consider God, infinite Spirit, to be our creator. Because, as the Bible teaches, there's just one God, one creative power, all that really exists must be the outcome of Him. So the true substance of all reality must be Spirit, not matter. Man's actual being, then, is spiritual.
The physical senses define us in strictly physical terms. But are we essentially physical? Is organized matter what Spirit has produced? Does the arrangement of matter give us basic worth? If God is the creator of matter, He is responsible not only for beauty but for ugliness and deformity. Yet an infinitely wise and loving God couldn't have afflicted some and blessed others.
God truly is Spirit, and even now man is His image, as the first chapter of the Bible tells us. Matter expresses a limited concept of identity and is neither the source nor the determiner of our worth.
Throughout his career Christ Jesus proved that the supposedly fixed conditions of matter are not fixed at all; that disease, deformity, and so on, can be eliminated through an understanding of man's uninterrupted spiritual perfection as God's image. Jesus' spiritual standpoint didn't ignore the human need but brought into clear focus the beauty and wholeness native to each one of us.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stressed the qualities that reveal and constitute our true substance and worth: humility, love, purity, wisdom. His teachings turn us away from preoccupation with material conditions and toward divine Spirit as the sole source of our well-being. ''No man can serve two masters,'' he said. ''Ye cannot serve God and mammon.'' And further, ''Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?'' n1
n1 Matthew 6:24, 27.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, asks: ''What is man? Brain, heart, blood, bones, etc., the material structure?'' And she continues: ''If the real man is in the material body, you take away a portion of the man when you amputate a limb; the surgeon destroys manhood, and worms annihilate it. But the loss of a limb or injury to a tissue is sometimes the quickener of manliness.'' She adds further along, ''Man is spiritual, individual, and eternal; material structure is mortal.'' n2
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 172-173.
Our worth, then, is an outgrowth of our actual nature as God's offspring. It's the result of our individual expression of the purity, love, beauty, intelligence, and strength of the divine nature. These qualities are not dependent on corporeality. Physical structure can neither add to our worth nor take away from it. But as we gain a clearer view of our merit through prayer and through being our true selves, expressing God's nature in conformity to Jesus' teachings, we'll discover our beauty. And we'll see it expressed tangibly -- not as coming from matter but as the shining through of our true nature. To challenge matter as fundamental substance doesn't take away from our identity; it opens the way for God-given qualities to be more evident as the real (and permanent) substance of our being.
To focus on the body as either good or bad, and as that which defines us, is to lose sight of our genuine and lasting identity. To glimpse that our life is in Spirit is to find true being and to understand that we are worthy. DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. I Samuel 16:7