Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


Longing for Success

posted by Carolyn Henderson

If you want people to read an article you write, or watch a video you post, just make sure that the title has the word, “Success” in it. (I know. I just did that. Did it work?)

Fortunately, I am not attracted by these headlines that really reel the readers in, (preferring, instead, articles with photos of celebrities without make-up), but Success Articles abound:

Lady of the Lake inspirational oil painting woman by mountain lake in gold fabric skirt by Steve Henderson

Successful people are not necessarily found in corporate boardrooms; those truly successful in life value different things than money, power, fame, and name. Lady of the Lake, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

The Bill Gates Plan: Five key attributes of the Successful Person.

Superstar Managers: How They Achieve Success and Become CEOs

13 Secrets to Success: Steve Jobs Still Speaks

Wisdom from Linked In

It’s not hard to find these — just pop onto Linked In and look at the top 5 stories, most of which have a minimum of 50,000 views. One time, I wandered over just to see what the writers were actually saying, which is, predictably, not much:

Successful people are confident, and powerful, and pro-active;  focused,  intentional, and dynamic; and they have a winning way about them. They have broad horizons and a sense of ownership that drives their thirst for excellence.

What’s intriguing — a little sad, actually — about these articles are the comments beneath:

“A pro-active approach to engaging a positive outlook on one’s horizon is top notch and essential!” — the implication strongly being that, not only does the commenting person agree with everything in the article, she or he actually got something out of it. (While one hopes that the people reading, and understanding, these success stories are not responsible for the middle management of others, I have a strong, sinking suspicion that they are.)

It’s Not a Sin to Want to Eat

For an ordinary person, wanting to be successful — as in, having more money than one needs to cover the rent, taxes, insurance, utilities, fees, a bit of clothing now and then, and adequate food — isn’t a sin. Anxiety about the future is a common attribute to mankind, and that God promised the Hebrew people a “land of milk and honey” is particularly telling:

We need to eat, and a place to live, and it’s increasingly difficult — in a global economy run by outrageously affluent people who are unwilling to share — for the average person to do this. So we flock to the Success stories, written by and about human raptors who make money off of the those who read and follow them. Do we honestly think that they truly want us to join them?

Shore Leave inspirational oil painting of rowboats on Columbia River by Steve Henderson

When the voices we choose to listen to tell us that we need and deserve a yacht, and they’ll tell us how to get there, we might overlook that God has already provided us with a boat. It’s small, but it’s a boat. Shore Leave, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed, open edition print at Great Big Canvas, iCanvasART, and Framed Canvas Art.

Yeah, I guess we do.

That’s why the prosperity preachers continue to make it: if the people in the pews would stop writing the checks, it would be interesting to see how long the Power Verses of Prosperity continued to work for the pulpit-holders promoting them.

But we’ll probably never know — because the people in the pews won’t stop writing the checks.

Follow the Master, not the Master-Mouth

As Christians, we are never promised prosperity, and indeed, because no servant is greater than his master (John 15: 20), we might keep in mind who our Master is, and how He lived (and died). While this seems a bit of a downer — I don’t want to be crucified any more than the next person does — it keeps our focus on God, not mammon, and our trust in His knowing what is best for our lives. It may not be a new car — but an old one, that runs, is a blessing that we will miss if we are constantly agitating for the Success that the world promises.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength,” Isaiah 30: 15 says, which should be comforting, because we don’t have to be pro-active and dynamic and intentional and powerful and confident — everything our corporate culture (which has infiltrated the church, and not just prosperity churches, by the way) insists that we must be.

Actually, what we have to do is more difficult — in that verse above, repentance is the only “active” movement we can take; resting, being quiet, and trusting — while they seem passive — are astoundingly difficult things to do. We can’t succeed at them without God’s help and intervention. But to get that, all we have to do is ask.

The rest of the verse provides an interesting twist:

“. . . but you would have none of it.”

The Hebrews looked for strength and assistance from Egypt, the very nation that had enslaved them earlier and from which God rescued them, because they were impressed by its wealth and confidence and splendor and pro-active, intentional way of doing things.

The corporate world is Egypt, my friends. How do we think that it will answer our prayers?

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. It is remarkably difficult separating what our individual culture calls truth from actual truth. The best lie is one that is 95 percent true.

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  • Scale Lily

    I agree, I think many of us are of good intention, but I had to wonder about some of the time and money put into the build up, and I was raised to give in secret.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    I just today figured out what this ice water bucket dumping thing is (I first learned about it, where else? Linked In) — and looking on YouTube I see that this is one of the types of videos that garners millions and millions of hits. The marriage of corporate America with religion, via good feelings of benevolence, much of the same language, and a significant sameness of attitude, is depressing.

    I have become most adept when, at grocery stores, the checker brightly asks, “And would you like to donate $1 to the Charity of the Day today?”, replying, just as brightly, “No thank you!”

    You can’t blame corporate America for trying — people of religious persuasion are frequently concerned about others and have good intentions. Unless they marry those good intentions with discretion and wisdom, however, they’ll wind up being sheep to be fleeced — by the latest bucket fad, the sweet little singer who turns into a vamp at 18, or the mega-church preacher whose books are used in the place of Bible at Bible studies.

    Deceptive people can make a lot of money off of the sleeping Christian community. And they have been — for many, many years.

  • Pingback: Our Obsession with Success | This Woman Writes by Carolyn Henderson

  • Scale Lily

    Very insightful. We were just discussing something similar today. I was asked to give a donation to a cause that may be good, but I am unfamiliar and don’t have the bank right now anyway. “Well then you need to dump a bucket of ice water on your head,” I was informed. So because I am broke right now, I also deserve to be wet and cold? “Yea, it’s for a good cause,”he says. Interesting. He was very confident though.

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