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'Who shall be greatest?'

Effective response to opposing mental influences benefits the whole human family.

From the December 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Have you ever noticed how most little children play together harmoniously in a sandbox or schoolyard, but sometimes there's a kid who tries to grab all the toys or bully others? There may be many opinions about where this tendency comes from, but most of us would agree it has some connection with a desire to be first. The king of the mountain. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, observed, "Two personal queries give point to human action: Who shall be greatest? and, Who shall be best?" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 268).

This trait may start in childhood games, but in one form or another, it appears in the thought of most of us as we mature. Just the other day an outstanding major league baseball player said he used performance-enhancing drugs because he wanted to be the best ballplayer in the world.

The desire to be greatest is not new, of course. At least once, Jesus' disciples argued over who was the greatest among them (see Mark 9:33, 34). And the mother of two of them once asked Jesus to give them a favored place with him (see Matt. 20:20, 21).