Is Jesus better than success?
I’ve heard it said before that Christianity is just another empty promise to make people successful. You believe it will make you a good husband or father; wife or mother. You believe it will make you wealthy by receiving God’s blessings. You believe it will give you eternal riches in heaven, and that’s why you believe it. It’s just a big get-rich-quick scheme.
This doesn’t seem like an unfair accusation when you examine how we, as Christians, often think about our faith. We put #blessed on all of our posts when we have experienced something good. We pray for comfort, peace, and money. We take elaborate vacations and call it “sabbath.”
God and success
But the problem is that this isn’t what you see in the bible. Whenever the bible writes #blessed, it’s always in connection with loss or sacrifice. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are you when you are persecuted, etc.
And Jesus is pretty clear that he doesn’t come with a get-rich-quick guarantee. He doesn’t promise prosperity, in fact, he promises the opposite. In Luke 9:58 Jesus warns a potential follower that he will not even have a place to lay his head. In Matthew 10:21 Jesus commands a rich young ruler to sell his many possessions, give the money away, and follow him.
In the Church, we usually explain stuff like this away by saying “Well, that rich young ruler worshiped his wealth, and that’s why it was bad, it’s ok for me to be slavishly devoted to money and success and panic when my security is threatened… as long as I don’t worship it.”
Jesus also isn’t concerned with making you a good husband or wife; or father or mother. Here’s what Jesus has to say about it in Matt 10:34-37
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
Christianity is not synonymous with your success. It just isn’t. So what should we think if success comes in life? Here’s what Paul says about it in Philippians 4:12-13
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
It would take way too much time to walk you through all of the verses that warn against riches and living for success, but trust me, there are lots. Paul says “I don’t need that. I know how to thrive in Christ and his strength.”
In Matthew 13:45 Jesus tells a parable about a man who finds a precious pearl, and sells everything he has to get it. This, he says, is the kingdom of God. All that we have we give for the kingdom. If we have lots, we give lots for the kingdom. If we have little, we give little for the kingdom. A hand that is holding tight to success, money, and the American dream, isn’t open to receive God.
So how do we resist this temptation? When the money starts to roll in and life starts to be comfortable, how can we fix our eyes on Jesus?
I want to examine two verses that will help with this.
One is an excerpt from the parable of the sower, Mark 4:18
The sower sows the word. And some are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
The second is from James 1:21
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
The word has been implanted in us, and the thorns of riches, comfort, and worldly desires are reaching at us to pull it away. Will we receive this implanted word and avoid the wickedness and filth of living for worldly comfort?
The answer here is the same as in the last post about resisting lust. Know God. Receive the word he’s implanted. Receive it with meekness. Get to know him so much that every other pleasure seems foreign. It should strike you as odd that people want you to build a million dollar home that will fall over, buy a million dollar car that will soon stop running, go on vacations that will leave us bored, retire early and die. We are created for more than that. We are created for more adventure, excitement, and joy than any success of this world can offer.
So, receive with meekness the implanted word. Get to know God. That’s the whole point of this series. Jesus is better, receive him.