Is it wrong for Christians to pursue success? It depends on how one defines the word. The second question is how does a person balance that with spirituality and commitment? That is like an illusive dream for many people, especially men. In many cases either the success suffers or their spiritual journey is less than what it could be. Men are expected to be productive and competitive. At the same time they are told to be spiritual leaders to their families, and encouraged to be active in a local church.
There are some principles to keep in mind that will help balance the scale. Let's start by defining success. Success should not be judged by material wealth, money, and a life style of independence. Success is not measured by what we have as much as who we have become in the process. It is a journey. This is the way success and spirituality can be brought into balance. Men, as you strive to success you can also focus on becoming more and more the man God designed you to be. In turn that will help your success. It is a continuous cycle of positive, spiritual growth. What many people fail to see is that many success principles are right out of the Bible.
We will look at a Scripture passage to see the parallel. Turn to James 4:13-15. When you read this you will see it mentions going into a city today or tomorrow to engage in a profit making enterprise. So first, these verses refer to having a plan and a time frame in which to accomplish it.
The second part of this passage, however, says we cannot know with certainty what will transpire. The application here is to never discount the uncertainties of life and things beyond one's control.
The passage ends with a warning about remembering God's will in our plans. You must acknowledge and be submissive to His sovereignty and timing. These verses do not say it is wrong to make goals and plans, as long as you are open to God altering them at any time, and letting God's grace mature you in the process. So, there is a perfect mesh between success and spirituality.
Closely related to success is ambition and amassing great amounts of money. The Bible also has things to say about this as well. James 3;14 and 16 emphasize selfish ambition. Again, there is nothing wrong with ambition provided it is not for selfish gain.
In Matthew 6:19-21, saving and laying up riches is discussed. Too often these verses have been misused to build a case against amassing money, but that is not what is being taught. Treasuring money for yourself is the main point. It is wrong to make a lot of money if you treasure it, or do not want to give it up.
What happens when we do that is expressed in James 5:1-5. A life based strictly upon riches for only selfish gain and personal treasure has nothing to offer anyone. It will bring misery(verse 1), be a witness against you and consume your flesh(verse 3), result in disgruntled employees(verse 4), and lead to a life of what one translation describes as "wanton" pleasure(verse 5). This is a word loaded with negative meanings: undisciplined, unmanageable, sexually loose or unrestrained, senseless, unjustifiable, and arrogantly ignoring justice, decency, and morality. Isn't this exactly what has occurred in our culture with those who just want to heap money and riches upon themselves? Then I Timothy 6:10 adds one more thing to this. People wander away from the faith.
Contrast this with I Timothy 6:6-8. Great gain is defined as godliness accompanied by contentment with the basic needs of life.
All of what has been said can be summed up this way. It is not wrong to become successful, even super-successful and wealthy as long as you are still content with basic needs, don't allow your prosperity to become greed, or pervert justice and decency, and you are focused on godliness, not to mention being generous with your wealth. Psalm 37:4 reminds us to delight in the Lord(not riches) and He will give us the desire of our hearts. But our desires will be in keeping with what God wants for us.
The story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50 is one of he best success stories in all of history. It shows biblical success born out of adversity combined with generousity and moral character. Joseph had everything that success had to offer but he used it to honor God and to help others, even his evil brothers. His heart was focused on the things of God's Kingdom, not on the treasures of the world.
We all know it takes money to get things done, and people who rise to the top of the success ladder with a heart right before God are in a position of influence to make things happen. They can call the shots. They can contribute money to Christian and secular charities and control how it is spent. What would happen if someone of the "rich and famous" of the world was a committed Christian? God HAS given some believers a special gift of wisdom and insight to create wealth for His purposes.
So go ahead, Christian men. Make all the money you can. Keep a godly attitude. Don't let it control you. Don't let it infringe upon time with your spouse and family. But expect some adversity. And remember, success is actually a spiritual journey of becoming the man God designed you to be. In the process God may choose to make you very successful. If He does give that success back to serving God and other people.
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