In this series, I’ve tried to show that success is not something to be celebrated, sought after, and worshipped. Rather, when taken in the wrong doses, it becomes spiritual poison, placing us at the mercy of all seven of the deadly sins.
I cannot overemphasize this: scripture’s view of “success” is profoundly counter-cultural. Yet I see little indication that American Christians recognize this. Rather, Christian bookstores are filled with volumes that feature successful looking people on the cover, promising to make you wealthy, or successful, or a “leader.” Likewise, most Christian universities celebrate alumni who have become “highly effective” in their business or profession. If you look at the people who are elevated to positions of leadership and power within Christian communities, almost always you will find it is successful folks who are being placed there.
But the biblical record could not be clearer: again and again, it is those who are seen as “failures” who are favored by God, selected by God, and used in God’s kingdom. God’s ways are seldom embraced by the powerful and influential. Rather, it seems, God more often resides among shepherds, fishermen, homeless, slaves, and women – maybe because he is most welcome where there is the least power, and, therefore, the most need.
There are exceptions of course – people who find a way to handle success without falling prey to the temptations that come with it. And I’m grateful that such people can be found in Christian communities, particularly in America. Still, I believe that American Christians need to put a great deal of thought into the way we think about, relate to, and celebrate our culture’s ideals of success.
Next: Comparing the value of “effectiveness” with the values of “faith”