His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” –Matthew 25:21
Most people strive for success. Products promise instant success in everything from weight loss to financial freedom. Schools promise success in producing well-educated students who will succeed in college and the working world. In fact, there is a promise that if you are successful in work, business, education, sports, or the arts, you will have lived a successful life. Great! Sign me up!
Unfortunately, this idea of success has infiltrated the church in almost all aspects. A successful church is often measured by the number of members, Sunday morning attendees, the number of staff members, or by the number of people who prayed at the altar on a given Sunday. I would like to offer the idea that the church is not called to be “successful” in the way success is measured today. Instead, we are called to be faithful.
Jesus told a parable about three servants who have been given responsibility over differing amounts of money or “talents.” Two of the servants used what they were given by the Master and made some profit; however, one servant, out of fear of the Master, buried his talent in the ground, returning only what he was given when the Master returned. The servants who invested their talents and brought a greater return were described as “good and faithful,” while the one who hid his talent was described as “wicked and slothful.”
Some would describe the first two as “successful.” Jesus, however, described them as “faithful.” Are the two completely separate? Not necessarily. Faithfulness sometimes brings earthly success, but more importantly, faithfulness brings eternal reward. Does that mean we should not strive to be successful in our ministries? Perhaps the better goal is to strive to be faithful. Jesus calls us to excellence and to invest whatever we have been given, as a church and personally, for His kingdom. When we are faithful, He can bring about whatever type of success He desires.
1. In your own life, how do you determine if you are successful? Do you consider yourself to be spiritually successful? Why or why not?
2. How can faithfulness —as opposed to success — be a better measurement of the state of your spiritual life?