No one starts a business without some desire to see it succeed. Otherwise what would be the point? If a business owner is not going to drive their business towards becoming profitable, having an impact, growing its customer base, employing more people, who else will? Making something successful requires hard work, determination, nous, good planning, a lot of time, and probably a fair amount of luck. So given all that, how should Christians treat this need for their businesses (and in some way, therefore, themselves) to succeed? What does God think about success?
I believe God loves success - after all you don’t get much more successful than creation - every single thing he made was ‘good’! But i don’t think God is so down on what we and the world have so often twisted the idea of success into. Chris Evert, the tennis player said this about what it was like when she retired: ‘I had no idea who I was, or what I could be away from tennis. I was depressed and afraid because so much of my life had been defined by my being a tennis champion. I was completely lost. Winning made me feel like I was somebody. It made me feel pretty. It was like being hooked on a drug. I needed the wins, the applause, in order to have an identity.’ It’s very sad. But unfortunately this is what the world’s idea of success does to people. Why is it that it tends to be the most successful people who are most shocked when trouble comes their way? Unsuccessful people aren’t shocked by disaster. They know all about the troubles of the world. They know that things can get ugly very quickly and without warning. But successful people can often think their success = their security. Money and fame and status - these things make people bulletproof don't they? Unfortunately not, because success itself, the world’s view of it, is insecure.
If we invest our whole lives in pursuing this view of success we’re destined for trouble.
Jesus, though, turns the definition of success on its head. And his view of success is actually the only thing that we should be going for. Where the world’s view of success is intrinsically insecure, his is utterly steadfast, never changing, and completely secure.
This is effectively what Jesus says is success: ‘Be like me, I don’t consider equality with God something to be grapsed at, to be desperate for, to strain and strive and long for. But I make myself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, a servant of the people - and all of this is for God’s glory.'
You don’t get much less sexy than that.
But you don’t get anything more powerful, more freeing, more fulfilling and more exactly what each and everyone of us needs.
So what am I saying? Am i saying that to be a christian means a life of invisible, unexciting, poor, unrewarding, painful service.
No not at all.
Because the picture changes dramatically when we see the world as made up of people who, yes have clothed themselves with humility and are serving their God and serving their people, but are doing it as business men and women, film producers, and hedge fund managers, teachers, and IT engineers, and parents, and actors and lawyers and cooks. In short people who’ve first and foremost chosen to follow Jesus and have received his plans for their lives. Plans and callings uniquely suited to individuals. Carved out before the beginning of time. Before the stars and the moon and the earth and the galaxies.
Seek first the kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Mt 6:33