The danger of success….
If you listen to the political discourse going on right now (and how can you ignore it?), it has a lot to do with those that are arguing on the merits of socialism. It’s amazing to me to even hear the suggestion that socialism would work based upon the historical failure of it over the past 100 years. It’s been said that, "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." -- Winston Churchill. Regardless of what some pine for, our present society is geared towards capitalism. And I whereas we could all argue that capitalism has many faults, and it does, to a large extent, reward greed and fierce competition, socialism makes the erroneous assumption that all people really want to do good work and the that government needs to re-distribute wealth so that we are all equal. Sadly, this does not work—-anywhere.
So our culture and my generation is wired for “success” and the rewards associated with competing in a capitalistic economy. And why should we not seek success and financial security.? Who wants to be live a society wired for “failure”, mediocrity or dependency on a government? In socio-economic terms, capitalism rewards success, and conversely socialism rewards “adequacy” and encourages one everyone finishing the race at the same time.
Obviously, based upon the other alternatives, I am a capitalist, but I must remind myself (and all my capitalists comrades) to be careful of living for and seeking success— because we might have the misfortune of succeeding, and then find that success is quite hollow and that we nothing else to live for. What is success anyway? “Success”……is it reaching all my goals?…. collecting the most toys?… being the most respected/envied/idolized in society? Do I really love those that succeed more than those that slip or fail, or am I secretly envious of those that do really well? Do I admire those that are successful or do I secretly hope for them to be brought down?
There is a danger of thinking that God’s purpose in my life is to make me successful, or that the intensity of His pleasure is best be measured by how auspicious and accomplished I am. God’s favor has nothing to do with what I have accomplish but rather for what Christ has reconciled and completed.
The opposite of failure is success, in the world’s understanding of life’s challenges, but in Christianity, the opposite of failure is faithfulness—-“success” has nothing to do with following Jesus or of being assured of His approval and love. As a matter of fact, success can cloud the vision and dilute our devotion to Him.
Success, even in ecclesiastical enterprises, can lead pride, arrogance, self-absorption, and a sense of entitlement. There’s no pride like spiritual pride and nothing hinders the work of God more than a pastor, church leader or Christian camp director that takes himself too seriously. “If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.”― G.K. Chesterton