The question, "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" is one that has come down to us out of the distant past and has been asked from time immemorial. Three thousand years ago the psalmist of Israel asked the Lord this question, and it was repeated by one of the apostles at the beginning of the Christian Era. It is appropriate that we ask it again in connection with this discussion.
This important question has called forth a variety of answers from secular writers. From a merely physical and material viewpoint man is declared to be merely a highly developed animal—about one hundred and fifty pounds of muscle, fat, bone, and water. The chemists have made some interesting estimates of the amount of water, fat, carbon, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, lime, and sulphur the human body contains, and have come to the remarkable conclusion that these various elements would be worth only about a dollar. Considered from the standpoint of the chemical constituents of his body, man's value is practically nil. Totalitarian systems of government consider man as less than a mere pawn, the only purpose of whose existence is regimentation for the exaltation and glorification of a dictator.
But the best estimate of the value of man, and the reason he should be visited and ministered to, is found in the Scriptures. Here he is said to be "fearfully and wonderfully made." We are told that he is "more precious than fine gold," even "the golden wedge of Ophir." The Biblical record tells us that man was originally made in the image of God, and that when human beings are redeemed they are "the sons of God." Having descended from the Eternal rather than having ascended from the slime and mud of a prehistoric age, man is called the offspring of God. His value is therefore beyond estimation.
The value of anything is determined largely by what it costs. An auctioneer was selling the antiquated furnishings of an old home. A dust-covered violin was placed on sale, and was about to be sold for three dollars when a man stepped forward and asked the privilege of examining the instrument. After looking it over carefully, he began to play. The tones were exquisite and the music fascinating. The touch of the master's hand had revealed the true value of a rare old Stradivarius violin, and the next bid was one thousand dollars. It was finally sold for three thousand. Knowledge, discernment, and skill raised the selling price from three dollars to three thousand.
The enormous price paid for man's redemption raises his value to a price beyond human estimate. He is, in the estimation of the Creator, "the pearl of great price," whose purchase was possible only at infinite cost. Heaven's most priceless treasure was .sacrificed in order to complete the transaction, but when the touch of the Master's hand finishes the work of recreation, "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" with His bargain. Christ was able to recognize the worth of a human being even after the curse of sin had virtually erased all traces of the original image or character of his Maker.
Only a Christian can place the proper estimate on the value of man and thus manifest the right spirit and attitude in ministering to his needs. Therefore, Christian physicians and nurses excel others in the scope and quality of the service rendered. To them a patient is not just another case, and he is valued on another basis than his ability to pay for benefits received.
Recently, in an Army training camp, a group of young men received their commissions. The high-ranking officer who delivered the address told the young men that belief and experience in Christian religion made men superior in every line of duty, including service in the Army. He urged them to nurture their spiritual lives and thus increase their efficiency as soldiers.
The best assurance of victory to our cause in the war is the fact that the chief military leaders of the Allied armies and navies recognize God and believe that success depends more on personal and national righteousness than on military power. The chief chaplain of the United States Navy recently said: "Never before in the memory of our oldest officers has there been such an interest in religion." This return to religion is the best possible assurance of final victory over powers that would destroy Christianity and the democratic forms of government under which it flourishes. Atheism may flourish in the safety of the homeland, but it soon disappears in the face of imminent death.
Chaplain Merritt F. Williams of the ill-fated aircraft carrier Wasp said, "When men are living cheek by jowl with death, they rapidly get down to essentials."
Medical work brings men and women in close and intimate contact with those who, because of sickness, are "living cheek by jowl with death," and who therefore need to get down to essentials. They need to know how to place the proper value on life when mere things lose their charm. While passing through "the valley of the shadow of death," they need to become acquainted with the Divine Shepherd so that they will "fear no evil," because they walk "in paths of righteousness."
It must be recognized that a kind providence makes it necessary at times for busy people to lie down on beds of sickness, and thus take time to rest and meditate on the things of greater worth. This is the only means by which many have been led into the green pastures of the Word and beside the still waters of divine grace, where the soul-hunger for spiritual rest and peace finds complete satisfaction. Here the head is anointed with the oil of gladness, and the cup of blessing overflows to benefit a needy world.
It must never be forgotten that the art of healing is enumerated among the gifts of the Spirit. In reality all healing is divine healing. No human being or medicine has the power to heal. Men and medicine can only aid nature in the process of physical restoration. Only God can heal both the body and the soul. He "forgiveth all thine iniquities" and "healeth all thy diseases." Christ was the greatest physician this world has ever known, and He healed the sick in order that He might also minister to the greater needs of the soul, and thus bestow the life that is more abundant. Following His methods will achieve the greatest success in bringing about the physical, mental, and spiritual restoration of the whole being. This is the divine commission to medical missionaries both at home and abroad.