The Measure of Success
Everyone who wants to be a failure, please raise your hand.
That’s what I thought.
We all want to be good at what we do, to be competent and respected and admired. We even spend large amounts of money on things we don’t need in order to show off just how successful we are.
But we don’t just like to be thought of as successful—we also judge others on their degree of success, naturally admiring those with high powered jobs and big bank accounts. We assume those with more accolades, or money, or possessions are better people. We admire a CEO more than a janitor simply because he brings home a huge paycheck and has lots of power. We shouldn’t, but we all too often do.
Bigger is better?
This success-oriented thinking also creeps in in other areas of life, especially when it comes to numbers. Men like big numbers. The bigger and more impressive the number, the more we think it matters. One million must be better than ten thousand, right?
Even within the Church, it is easy to judge success in terms of numbers. Is your parish growing? How many baptisms took place this year? How big was the collection this week? How many people are involved in your programs?
There’s nothing wrong with statistics, but all too easily it becomes an idolatry of sorts, the only measure of success we care about. Quantity replaces quality, the work of God is treated like a business, and numbers rule the day.
But here’s the thing: When it comes to God’s economy, outward, numerical success means exactly nothing.
We Follow a Failure
I say this with all due reverence, but humanly speaking, Jesus’ earthly life was a complete failure. He didn’t overthrow the Roman government and usher in a glorious earthly kingdom as so many had hoped. He didn’t make friends with the powerful and influential. He didn’t
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