On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 130: Success (1/22/17)

“Save us, we beseech thee, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech thee, give us success!” (Psalm 118[117]:25 RSV)

 Most people would agree that success is a good thing. We work hard at it. We strive for it. We dream of it. Even David the Psalmist praises success, and prays to God for it. But what is success? Success may depend on the person praying, dreaming and striving for it.

 Looking at success with the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 RSV), as we Orthodox Christians are required to do, we see some problems. It is apparent that the more successes we have, the more responsibility is placed upon us. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem.” When we read the biographies of some who have been labelled as successful (for example, Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes, Prince), they seem less like biographies than they are tragedies.

David’s Psalm-prayer for success is of a different kind than that which a modern 21st-century American dreams. His prayer is not for cars, houses, prestige, a large bank account or any other hundreds of other “things” that are seen as signs of success. Rather, the Holy Psalmist is seeking success in the life of God’s people as faithfulness. In the modern American view of success, success may move us away from God rather than nearer to Him. Personal success and achievement in our world today often lead to a sense that we ourselves are God. We begin to think that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what we do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like us. We make ourselves supreme.

In our Old Testament, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job were rich and yet were also approved by God. God gives us the power to make wealth, which includes material prosperity: “…the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your body, and in the fruit of your cattle, and in the fruit of your ground…. The Lord will open to you his good treasury the heavens, …the Lord will make you the head, and not the tail; and you shall tend upward only, and not downward…(Deuteronomy 28:11-13 RSV).

Getting success? We work at the pleasure of the Lord. Our work is to be driven by our love of the Master. When we meet God in heaven, he will not ask us if we were successful. Our only desire should be to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23 RSV). That’s success!

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

Mark Your Calendar Now for the 2nd annual Stewardship Retreat will be held September 22-24, 2017.

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