An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
In Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, the authors lay out seven essential communication practices modeled by Jesus: attentiveness, seeking connection, asking questions, authenticity, storytelling, solitude, and defining success (The Revolutionary Communicator, xx). It is this final practice that I want to focus on today: defining success.
How does one define success today? Take, for example, $60,000 gold-plated caskets, Rolls Royce hearses, and destination funerals that rival the most lavish wedding celebrations. This isn’t fantasy, but a recent trend that is happening around the globe among the rich. According to Bloomberg, “It’s become one last display of power and wealth” for the world’s most affluent inhabitants. Perhaps for these people of means, their last dying wish is to prove how successful they were in life.
The disciples are found arguing about success in Luke’s story. Even though they don’t seem to be arguing specifically over money, Jesus warns his disciples about seeking power and position as a definition of success. Instead, he says to focus on humbly serving others as an act of being united with his work and ministry.
Immediately following this argument, Jesus gives another lesson about success in the sending out of the seventy-two. After they return from ministry, they are amazed that the power of God flowed through them with authority over the power of the devil (Luke 10:17). Interestingly, Jesus warns them to not even seek the success of ministry! He says, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Henri Nouwen wrote on the danger of finding value based on “what you do, what you have, and what people say about you.” Nouwen encourages us to find our identity in the powerful truth that we are the Beloved of God. This is what Jesus is saying in Luke 10. We should find our joy not in our accomplishments for God but in our identity with God.
At the end of our lives, what will matter is what we did in partnership with God, the one to whom we belong in life and death. However we define success, we can be sure that Jesus gives us some clear ideas of what success isn’t and what true success is.
Something to Think About:
“In a media age, we assume that… success is getting what you want. In every age, the truth is… success is giving what you have” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 128).
Something to Do:
Mark Roberts offers a devotional guide on success. Sign up for a free downloadable pdf and read the introduction.
I need help to find my identity in you, Jesus. Forgive me for valuing myself based on what I do, what I have, or what people say about me. Guide me by your Spirit to embrace true success by partnering with you in my work, my personal life, and my overall pursuit of living life well. Amen.