Success from a Christian Perspective

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Culture often ties one’s identity to material wealth or social clout.  And dictionaries explain “success” as the accomplishment of one’s goal, especially with the result of achieving fame, wealth, or promotion.  

While there is nothing inherently evil about finances, fame, and furtherance, John Calvin encourages us to consider the perspective we take of success.  He wrote that men and women:

“are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity, for when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves, and are intoxicated by their success.”

We know that selfish ambition and self-promoting injustices take deep root in our endeavors, pervading especially our working and schooling environments.  Many of us are so industrious that worldly success comes at the cost of health, family, or relationship with God and God’s people. 

Have you thought about “success” in the Christian Life? 

I have heard it said that the measure of success for the Christian is a ratio between talents & resources received, to talents & resources invested – no matter the level of worldly success.  Remember these individuals in Scripture?

  • Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy follower of Christ offered his own tomb for Jesus, and personally retrieved Jesus’ body from the cross (Matthew 27:57-60).
  • The widow (widows of the day had no opportunity to earn a paycheck) dropped her last coin in the temple offering (Luke 21:1-4).
  • Three workers were entrusted with 1, 2, and 5 talents, respectively.  Those who invested the resources were rewarded with responsibility in proportion to their faithfulness: both were entrusted with double the talent they had initially received!  However, the one who buried the resource was removed from his position as steward.  (Matthew 25:14-30)

The narratives of these individuals remind us that success in the Christian life includes finances, but that the amount of finances do not limit our worth in God’s Kingdom.   Similarly, the type of our abilities, do not limit our worth in God’s Kingdom.  Paul encouraged the Colossian church:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. -Colossians 3:23

If I was to paraphrase Paul’s words here, I would write:  No matter WHAT you do, consider for WHOM your serve, and HOW you serve!

  • Whatever you do – engineer roads, deliver pizza, study economics, perform surgery, manage human resources – do so with passion and enthusiasm? 
  • Look for God’s smile at the end of each day, even if those around you do not notice your thoroughness, your servant-heart, your passion for justice, etc.

Are you a success in the Christian life?  The answer is not simply how much you earn, or how much you receive.  Rather, the answer depends on the attitude with which you live, serve, and work; and how you invest the abilities and resources that been given to you. 

For reflection:

  • How would your home-life, your study-life, your work-life look if you increasingly kept in mind that your work is for Christ?
  • What resource, ability, or relationship might be used to make this world a better place, and thereby bring glory to God?