Personal success is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the Church today. Many people believe that it’s wrong to be ambitious in their career because they think that ambition is the same thing as pride. That’s simply not the case. God wants His people to be successful. Moreover, God wants His people to enjoy the benefits of their personal success. However, it’s important that we understand how to be both successful and Scriptural.
Is it OK for Christians to strive for personal and professional success? This question and others like it often provide a mix of contradictory answers. Many people assume that because God doesn’t want money to be our primary focus that it’s somehow wrong to be ambitious in our careers. Success and Godly living are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, God wants His people to enjoy their success. Afterall, He has given us the traits and abilities that we have to be successful. Being successful and striving to be more successful are not sinful ideas. However, it’s important that we understand how to take a Scriptural approach to our success.
Have you ever felt guilty for wanting to be more successful? Perhaps a well-meaning Christian has told you that your personal success shouldn’t be your goal. While they certainly meant well with their statement, they may have provided some incorrect information.
Today, we’re going to gain a better understanding of what the Bible really says about success. Is it wrong to want to be successful? Is there a way to maintain your Christian walk while living the life that God wants you to live? As always, we can take a look into Scripture to find the answer to those questions and more.
How Does God Feel About Financial Success?
Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your father, as it is this day.
There is a major misconception about God’s feelings regrading financial success. People often misquote a Scripture found in the New Testament as a means of discouraging people from seeking financial success. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “money is the root of all evil,” you’ve only heard part of what the Bible says. Let’s take a look at that Scripture before we dissect what it means for us today.
1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Paul never said that money is the root of all evil. Instead, he said that the love of money is a root of evil, and that some have allowed that love to cause them to wander away from the faith. When you look at that verse along with the verse from Deuteronomy, it’s easy to see that God is not against His people pursuing financial success.
God’s view of pursuing financial success is largely contingent on your view of financial success. Making more money should never be the most important thing in your life. Living a Godly life, caring for the people around you, and being a disciple of Christ are all more important. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue personal financial success. After all, it is God who gives His people the power to get wealth.
What is Biblical Success?
Matthew 25:29 (ESV)
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This parable of Jesus is about money. In fact, many of His parables revolved around finances and possessions. Of the 34 parables recorded in Scripture, 11 of them mentioned or taught about money. This is perhaps the most blatant.
In this parable, a rich man goes away and leaves three of his servants in charge of his finances. To one servant, he gave five talents (talents were a monetary unit of the day), another received two, and the third received one. The rich man gave the servants money based on what he believed they could handle.
The servant who received five talents went straight to work, trying to turn the five into more, as did the servant who received two talents. We don’t know exactly what they did, but verses 16 and 17 teach us that they “went at once and traded with them.” Through good investing and trading, both of those servants doubled the money that the master had left them with. However, the servant who received one talent went and buried his talent in the ground. The master was so angry at the servant who didn’t try to make more money that he banished him!
What does this teach us about financial success? Moreover, what does this teach us about personal success in our careers? It shows us that the Biblical idea of personal success is found in effectively and morally using what you have access to.
While talents were a monetary unit in the New Testament, we can look at the word for what we know it to be today. God has given each of us some form of talent or special ability. It is up to us to effectively and morally use those talents in order to pursue financial success while living a life that is pleasing to God.
Using your talents to further your own personal success is certainly not sinful. In fact, Christ’s parable teaches us that using what we have in order to advance is a commendable action.
The Source of Our True Success
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
It’s important that we remember that the source of our true success is found in what we are. You are successful because you are the workmanship of God, who has been created in Christ Jesus for good works.
There is nothing wrong with pursuing personal success in your career and financial success through ethical means. However, it’s important to remember that you are already a success. On the day that you accepted Christ as your Savior, you became a success.
Whether you have millions of dollars in the bank or you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re a success. Whether you live in the finest home in the neighborhood or you’re renting a studio apartment, you’re a success. Whether you have the newest, fastest car on the market, or you’re driving an old vehicle that you hope gets you where you’re going, you’re a success. Why? Because your name has been written down in the journals of Heaven.
As a child of God, your success isn’t measured in what you have, but Who lives inside you. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to create a better life for you and your family. However, it’s important to understand that your ultimate success isn’t found in dollar signs.
God is not against His people pursuing success. However, it’s important that you take a Biblical approach to that pursuit. Paul acknowledged that many people have allowed the love of money and the pursuit of more of it to cause them to act in ungodly ways, straying from the faith. Contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t have to “step on others” and “lie and cheat” your way up the ladder of success. It is possible to be Godly and be successful.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You know my ambitions and goals that I have set for myself. I know that I can pursue them in a way that is pleasing in Your eyes. Help me to achieve my goals, as I know that You are my true source of ability. Most of all, help me to go about my pursuits in a way that pleases You. I need the Holy Spirit to guide me in every aspect of my life. In Christ’s name, Amen.