Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Size and Speed (Idolatry Pt 2)

I’ve been thinking about our American definition of success all over again. Most modern connotations of success are idolatrous. We set ourselves before it, we primp for it, we pray for it and to it, we spiritualize why we don’t – or worse – why others don’t have it or don’t deserve it, not recognizing that we have set up a standard based upon no authority at all, and deemed “it” worthy of a following. Deceived.

We Westerners, in particular, seem most enamored with the quest for success. I’m all for success if it means working hard, living purposeful, achieving certain goals, leaning to love, and having a desire do better. But I’ve been taught and I've observed that our post-modern distinction of success is really mostly described by words like: bigger, better, faster, brighter, more expensive, and top-of-the-line – all of which has to do with me having more than you! Shallow.

I gotta come out of the closet here: I’m a certified Jesus Freak! Not that I always live that unswervingly, but that’s my goal. And to be consistent with my stated allegiance I have to attempt to align my walk with my belief. Where I often fail is the whole area of “success” and the many atrocities against authenticity in my personhood that arise in my attempts to live up (or down?) to that elusive standard. Whose standard am I to follow? John Kenneth Galbraith said that “in economics, the majority is always wrong.” (I hate that truth!) Reality.

If I say I belong to Jesus, then to be true to Him and to myself, I have to follow His example. Instead of looking to Jesus as my Role Model, this seductive western mind-set of who's got the biggest SUV, is sickeningly, too much a part of me. OK, so you don’t have an SUV, and if you do, you’re going to try and convince me that you have one because it’s the safest thing for your family, or ironically, the best way to pull your new boat (which, by the way, is bigger than that guy down the street). Lest you think I must be wearing camel skin jeans and eating locusts and wild honey – I don’t have an SUV, I have a truck – but it’s my wife’s and we have a big family and we use it to haul junk to the dump… blah, blah, blah. It's just an SUV with the back end lowered just a bit! I’ve been bitten too with this idol. How do I know I have a problem? Because it makes me feel good when I’m driving it, and it looks good in our neighborhood, and it makes me feel like I’m successful because it has more torque than the dude’s truck down the block – because it tells me that I sort of got-it-going-on enough to own something cool to drive. Ashamed.

Crowds can be like Lemmings, they just following because the crowd in front of them appears to be going faster, farther, and more purposeful than the crowd they are leaving behind. I think it’s time we took another look at success and recognized that it is much more than “bigger, better, faster, brighter, more expensive, and top-of-the-line.” Tragic.

Jesus came with a message that tips over our pallid definition of success – even if it is amorphous. His definitions of success are far away from the adjectives we use to describe "size and speed" as signals of success. Observing Jesus’ life and teaching would indicate that success has more to do with being than doing. Someone said, "There’s a reason we’re called human beings instead of human doing." His definition seems to have more to do with loss in the natural and accumulation in the eternal; more to do with attitude than altitude. And according to the real Jesus, success has almost nothing to do with our material accumulation and public esteem. Why do you think Prosperity Theology only works in America, or when it’s supported by rich American preachers? False. (More next week . . .)

1 comment:

ChriS & Yvette Ferguson said...

Great and Terrible thoughts. I can never get away from the rich young ruler...cause I believe I am he or he is me. How much have I refused to do for the Lord because I chose to give my time, talent, and treasure to? More than I'd care to look at, of course there is always today and tomorrow. Press on towards the mark! Keep ruminating!