Who's the greatest?

A Christian Science perspective.

Today there’s scarcely a field of human endeavor where people are not striving for ratings. Television shows live or die by the Nielsen ratings, which measure over 40 percent of the world’s TV viewing behavior. Politicians allow approval ratings to determine how they vote on key issues. The media get extraordinary mileage out of such events as the Academy Awards or lists of the most eligible bachelors or Olympic medal winners. And school committees vote for Teacher of the Year – and even Best Pupil in Class.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting straight A’s, earning a good salary, or being chosen as Most Valuable Player in a game. But it’s how you live with that success, treat others (especially rivals), and help enrich others’ lives through the recognition you’ve gained, that really matters. It’s what you do with the unique abilities God has given to each of us.

Mary Baker Eddy pointed the way when she said that an understanding of Christian Science, which explains the divine laws that undergird life and healing, leads naturally toward individual excellence. She wrote, “A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 128). She said that there’s no loss of identity when we replace material thinking with a spiritual approach to life. Instead, we experience “enlarged individuality” and “a wider sphere of thought and action” (p. 265).

It’s in this expanded view of our connection to divine Spirit that we experience a deeply satisfying sense of achievement that cannot be shaken by envy, contradiction, or discord. The Bible records one particularly contentious moment when Jesus caught his disciples bickering over who would be considered the greatest in God’s kingdom. He turned human measurements upside down when he said, “Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26, English Standard Version) – adding that he was one committed to serving others.

The Bible never records Jesus as striving for personal place, power, or glory. As the Son of God, he showed by his own example how we each have a priceless, individual identity through our own direct link with our Father-Mother. He taught that each one of us has equal access to and reflects the unlimited intelligence and goodness of the one Mind, which is God.

Referring to his healing works, Jesus said that if we believed in him, not only would we heal as he did but we’d achieve even “greater works” than he did (see John 14:12). Clearly, he understood that each individual has a vital role to play. Age, experience, wealth, titles, and trophy cabinets are not in and of themselves indicators of greatness.

We all have divine greatness within us, which is identified in the way we reflect and express God’s greatness. The playing field is level. We have the same access to the infinite Mind’s healing power, wisdom, insight, strength, agility, and balance. We share great treasures as coheirs of God’s inexhaustible goodness (see Rom. 8:17). We can give thanks to God, the impartial creative Mind, for opportunities to show excellence in every aspect of our lives, without superiority or inferiority.

Even if we can’t escape some form of ratings in life, we can start each day with a humble, honest assessment of our spiritual progress – our advancement toward a clearer understanding of our relationship with God, and a deepening concern for our neighbors’ well-being. We can make sure that we’re not obscuring others’ achievements at any level through even a sliver of self-importance, indifference, envy, or thoughtless criticism. These are proven ways of realizing our true potential; of accepting and expressing the ability God gives everyone to know and express Him; and of fully recognizing how God works in us, inspiring and guiding us. Our divinely strengthened abilities are already in place. It’s our job to express them in our lives.

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