He possessed none of the trappings of worldly success - wealth, political power, prestige. His career was brief. His students were unpretentious, simple people whom he taught in humble surroundings, often through parables taken from everyday life. His enemies put him to death by crucifixion, in the company of two common criminals. And yet this man, Christ Jesus, was the greatest man who ever lived.
How the Master upset the notion that a man's worth could be evaluated on the basis of either material gain or outward appearance! Through his example of pure goodness, he radically redefined greatness.
He instructed his disciples, who were arguing over which of them would be the greatest, ''He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.'' n1
n1 Luke 22:26.
To serve, rather than be served; forgive, rather than retaliate; be gentle, instead of aggressive; meek, rather than self-assertive; to heal the sick and the sinning; and to seek no applause in all this but to give the glory to God - these are the real test of a great man or woman.
Spiritual goodness, expressed in human lives, has its source in God, who is the great I am. This goodness is not just a halfway point between average and excellent, a bland generality defining the absence of evil. It is the divine standard of perfection that distinguishes immortal man, our real selfhood made by God, from mundane mortality. It is the identification mark of the eternal Christ, which reveals man's perfect, spiritual status as the likeness of divine Love.
As the active, vital expression of God, good, our real being is never mediocre. But we need to demonstrate this by degrees. We progressively prove our wholly good nature as we diligently strive to express that nature in even the smallest details of our lives, until we arrive at ''the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'' n2
n2 Ephesians 4:13
Every day provides countless opportunities to show forth our Christly stature. Whatever we're called upon to do, we can strive for excellence. By performing our duties with thoroughness, humility, and confidence in God, we bring dignity and grace to any activity and thus lift it beyond the ordinary.
What matters is not so much the outward form of our work, but the way in which we carry out our responsibilities. In an office, for example, the most important thing is not whether we're a manager or a messenger, but what the quality of our thought is in fulfilling our assigned task. We can ask ourselves, ''Which will it be - the banal pettiness of materiality (complaining, envy, self-love) or the grand nobility of goodness?''
When we let the Christ-spirit of selflessness and joy characterize even the humblest task, we've brought a dimension of greatness into our day. On the other hand, the loftiest assignment, done in anger or through a selfish motive, has not really been done at all. ''The letter of your work dies, as do all things material, but the spirit of it is immortal,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. She continues, ''Only those men and women gain greatness who gain themselves in a complete subordination of self.'' n3
n3 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 194
Seeking greatness? Seek goodness. Strive for the stature of a life radiant with the Christ-spirit, which heals and blesses. At every point in our careers, such attainment is the only valid test of success. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Ascribe ye greatness unto our God. Deuteronomy 32:3