Are you obsessed with success?
The Bible has some humbling words for people who want to win at everything.
Have a think about the things you are trying to achieve: good grades, sporting success, fame, fortune.
Now, pick up a piece of paper and write down the answer to this question: Why am I trying to achieve these things?
Now, crumple up that piece of paper and think about this: Why do I really strive for success? If you are honest with yourself, you’ll probably find the answer shocking.
The Bible on success
This is a really humbling verse:
Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless—like chasing the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
Read that again. What does this verse say about our real motivation for succes?
More times than not, we do what we do, in an attempt to be “the best”. You see what others have, you envy it and you want it too … or something even better.
Students do this with grades, athletics and all kinds of extra curricular activities. Adults do this with parenting, church attendance, money, and their gardens.
They compare themselves to others, decide they aren't as good as someone else, and then attempt to surpass their peers in some way.
Competition can be fun
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes competition is fun. You want to have an eating contest? I’ll throw down! And then … I’ll probably throw up! But we’ll have fun!
Let’s play baseball. I did when I was a little kid. I got hit in the mouth trying to field a ground ball - how does that even happen? I don’t know, but it was all fun. Sports, games, whatever competition you can think of, is great – for fun.
But when success or out-doing other people becomes our motivator for life, especially work, it’s like chasing after the wind.
The best is never enough
You’ll never get to feel like you’re “the best”. Even if you conquer the whole world.
In high school, a teacher told me a story about Alexander the Great. He conquered all the nations he could until there was basically nothing left to conquer. When he realized there was no one left to beat, what did he do? Did he smile? Did he say, “That’s enough?”. No. According to my teacher, he cried.
The truth is you can rule the world and still feel empty.
Maybe we’re not meant to be the best. Maybe the purpose of our lives has nothing to do with our perceived rank in the world. Maybe we are here because someone else is the best.
So, what does the Bible say to those of us who place too much value on success? Be like Jesus, who - even though he really was the best - humbled himself for our sake, took on the nature of a servant and died for us. Instead of trying to be the best, let Philippians 2:3-4 be your new life motto:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.