Are we better than our ancestors?
The material concept of life, with all its limitations, never has been nor ever can be our actual being.
At a time of crisis in his prophetic mission, the Old Testament prophet Elijah protested, “I am not better than my fathers” (I Kings 19:4). Up to this point, he had acted as God’s faithful spokesman, denouncing the pagan Baal worship practiced by Ahab, king of Israel, and his wife, Jezebel.
While Ahab and his kingdom endured a terrible drought (symbolizing, perhaps, a drought of spirituality), God had furnished Elijah with nourishment, first in the wilderness and then in the home of a widow in Zarephath. Then, at God’s direction, Elijah had courageously challenged Ahab to a showdown, demanding that the children of Israel choose between Baal and the Lord Almighty based on a test of the respective deities’ powers.
After 450 of Baal’s prophets had appealed to their god for fire to consume their offering and received no reply, God promptly answered Elijah’s prayers with a mighty fire that consumed not only his water-soaked sacrifice but even the stone altar itself. Having convinced the people that the Lord was indeed the true God, Elijah went on to predict the imminent end of the drought, and shortly a great rain fell (see I Kings 18:17–45).
It’s possible that, after carrying out God’s will so faithfully and tirelessly, Elijah felt he must surely be entitled to some sort of rest or reward. However, Jezebel sent word to Elijah that her minions would hunt him down and kill him within a day. Elijah was crushed. The poor guy was discouraged and depressed—at the end of his rope. He fled into the wilderness, where he asked God to please just let him die, lamenting, “I am not better than my fathers.”
But instead, God sent an angel that fed and comforted Elijah. Then God led him to Mount Horeb, where Elijah heard the “still small voice” of divine Truth. A refreshed and rejuvenated Elijah resumed his prophetic mission with great success. Following God’s instructions, he returned to civilization, appointed new kings for Syria and Israel, and chose Elisha to succeed him as God’s prophet. His mission now finally complete, Elijah ascended by a whirlwind (see I Kings, chap. 19; II Kings 2:11).
It was more than just a stirring pep talk that Elijah received from God, divine Mind, on Mount Horeb; it was a spiritual revelation providing a clearer understanding of the eternal nature of both God and man. This Mind must have reversed Elijah’s mistaken belief that he was, like his fathers, or ancestors, a mortal and destined to die. God must have enabled Elijah to see that he was, in truth, God’s immortal, spiritual child. He could not be the descendant of a line of mortals, for God, the perfect and only creator, could not possibly create imperfect, material children. Not only was Elijah himself fundamentally different and far better than the matter-based concept he’d had of himself and his ancestry, but so were his apparently mortal ancestors. They were, in their true identities, as spiritual and perfect as Elijah, because God never made a sinful, material mortal.
Essentially, Elijah experienced a spiritual transformation on Mount Horeb. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, explains man’s spiritual origin in her article “The New Birth.” Of the commandments “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” she writes, “These commands of infinite wisdom, translated into the new tongue, their spiritual meaning, signify: Thou shalt love Spirit only, not its opposite, in every God-quality, even in substance; thou shalt recognize thyself as God’s spiritual child only, and the true man and true woman, the all-harmonious ‘male and female,’ as of spiritual origin, God’s reflection,—thus as children of one common Parent . . .” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 18).
This spiritual insight is just as relevant, uplifting, and redemptive today as it was when the still, small voice enlightened Elijah on Mount Horeb. We need to and can understand that each one of us, including our ancestors and descendants, has been, is, and always will be spiritual. The material concept of life, with all its limitations, imperfections, and mortality, never has been nor ever can be our actual being. We are “better” than that, to use Elijah’s word.
The understanding that our true heritage and nature are divine and spiritual frees us from the belief that we are subject to supposed physical laws of heredity. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Heredity is a prolific subject for mortal belief to pin theories upon; but if we learn that nothing is real but the right, we shall have no dangerous inheritances, and fleshly ills will disappear” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 228).
Our family has experienced proof of this truth. Over a period of several years, our young daughter had recurring nosebleeds, believed by a number of our relatives to be a hereditary tendency. One year, our daughter also suffered from acute congestion—also widely accepted among our extended family as inherited. One night, my wife and I felt it was time we took a mental stand on the basis of the scientific, divine truth that none of us—our parents and relatives, our child, ourselves, or anyone—has a mortal, material ancestry or an identity subject to heredity or illness. We affirmed in prayer that we are all the eternal, immortal children of the one creator, our Father-Mother God. The next morning our daughter awoke free. Both the congestion and the nosebleeds stopped permanently.
It had become clear to us that we needed to set aside the whole idea of material identity, including material ancestry and material birth. Our daughter’s freedom ever since from these physical discords has been a most precious gift.
So, are we better than our ancestors? Let’s put it this way: We and our ancestors are far better than mortal ancestry would make it appear. Seeing everyone as the spiritual offspring of our divine, one and only Parent brings healing.