by Don Ingwerson
When I was in college, I had a particularly hard time with one of my math courses. I happened to meet my professor in the hall one day and told him the trouble I was having. I was expecting that he would make an effort to help me in some way so that I could more easily grasp the concepts and be able to use them.
But he didn’t take the bait.
Instead, he told me that when he was going through the same class he too found it difficult. Like me, he also reached out to his professor, and his professor had told him he needed to buckle down, study more, and make sure to do all of the homework. By doing so, the professor had said, he would experience a breakthrough and finally achieve understanding. And he did.
The message was clear. I had to buckle down, study more, and do all my homework!
Perhaps this is also a message that needs to be heard in religious circles in our current society, since a recent Pew Research Center Report on Religion and Public Health concluded that, “Highly religious Americans are happier and more involved with family but are no more likely to exercise, recycle, or make socially conscious choices.”
What this study suggests is that there is little difference between those who regularly attend worship services and practice religion and those who do not, when it comes to making outward lifestyle choices; so it makes sense to me that religious attendance and practice is declining in every age group, education level, region, and gender in the US.
What I’ve found true over the years – just as in my math class – is that I need to study and actually live the spiritual truths that I find and understand. As I make these spiritual truths an integral part of every aspect of my life, my religion becomes vibrant and alive – and then a necessary part of my life. Over a hundred years ago, author Mary Baker Eddy and the founder of Christian Science wrote, “Mind-science teaches that mortals need ‘not be weary in well doing.’ It dissipates fatigue in doing good. Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us.”
Less weariness is not all that comes from giving instead of withholding. The power of living itself can be upheld by constantly searching for spiritual truth. For instance, a CNN poll authored by Carina Storrs found that women nurses who attended religious services regularly had a death rate 33% lower than non church-going women. There are others who are finding ways to encourage this spiritual search also. In their book, Essential, Thom and Sam Rainer strongly recommend that churches not water down Scripture and instead search for ways to be relevant by making the gospel messages applicable to present culture.
The words and works of Jesus are indeed relevant to today’s world, because the gospel message of God’s love for all is as timeless as our need for healing. And that’s why it is possible, perhaps inevitable, that the seemingly downward trend in current religious practice can be reversed – because the deepest life satisfaction comes through learning the value of what Eddy calls “the power of being magnanimous.”
Or, as Jesus put it: “Don’t hold back – give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap – a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give.”