Over the past few posts I have been writing about some of the strange ideas we pick up in the church. One idea that has many forms is that God blesses the faithful with worldly success. However, the opposite is also taught: Worldly success is a sign of spiritual compromise.
The idea that faithfulness and success are connected has a flaw. Who gets to define these terms? My definition of faithfulness would probably mean far less activity and far more heart connection to the Lord, but I doubt that many teachers today would agree with that. And success, well that’s something even harder to define.
Let’s say that Mr. X is a Christian businessman. Let’s say that he makes a lot of money. He takes home substantially more than you and I do. So, does that mean that the Lord loves Mr. X more than He loves us? Or does that mean that Mr. X is more faithful in his walk than we are? Some would go there. Some would suggest that business success is dictated by spiritual faithfulness.
But others would suggest just the opposite. They would say that Mr. X couldn’t possibly make so much money if he was being honest or kind or faithful to the Lord. They would say the fact that he lives in the big house on the hill proves that he takes advantage of others and is miserly.
Many legalist groups subtly teach that worldly success is a sign of God’s approval. They teach how to get out of debt, how to be a good employee, how to dress for impression, etc. They welcome the wealthy businessmen on their boards and committees. But outwardly they say they don’t trust business success and teach that God works through financial struggles to teach and to bless.
So what’s the solution? How do we determine success in life? How do we decide who is successful and who is not? Maybe we don’t. Maybe that’s not our responsibility.
I try to be consistent in teaching that the Christian life is walking with Jesus. My only goal in ministry is to follow Him. Now, if that’s the case, then what would success be? I think success would be to be with Him.
That means that He will take care of the money, the reputation, the influence, and the popularity of my life. As He leads me, He will give me whatever I need to do what He asks of me. My resources will come from Him and be for Him. If He wants me to have a great deal of money at a certain time, the money will be there. If He wants a large number of people to listen to what He tells me to say, the people will be there. But sometimes I might not need money for what He asks me to do. And sometimes I may need to focus on a much smaller group of people. Success will never be measured by the standards of the world, but by His delight in using me for His glory.
Think of the disciples. What did they have? Houses, land, bank accounts? But were they successful? Were they faithful? We remember them because they followed Jesus.
Let’s face it: the flesh wants to measure success. The Spirit doesn’t care what the world thinks. The flesh compares itself to others and wants to stand in a certain place. The Spirit knows that this world is fading away. The flesh sees others as competition and wants to get ahead. The Spirit longs for relationship and love and doesn’t care who’s ahead.