“What’s wrong with wanting success?” “Why is it wrong to want to get a profit?” “Why shouldn’t I strive for greatness?” These are all questions that have been posed to me this season. My answer is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with success or profit or greatness! I would encourage folks to spend themselves to attain these things but we must be careful to define “profit” “success” and greatness.
The World has one view and God seems to have quite a different one. Jesus’ disciples asked him about having the greatest place. I think it is interesting to note that he does not rebuke their desire. He seems to commend it but he asks if they are ready to follow his example “drink the cup I drink”. This is an example of self-giving. In parable after parable Jesus encourages the profit motive. He warns clearly about “gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul.”
If you want to be great Jesus says become like a child… become the least and you will achieve your heart’s desire of greatness. Jesus not only says this he lives it! Though Heaven’s throne room was his home by right, he did not insist on his rights but humbled himself. The One who spoke the universes into being descended to a single celled embryo in a young woman’s womb. The descent to greatness continued through a humble life and a criminal’s death on the barbaric cross, into a borrowed tomb. It is because of this great humility that scripture tells us he now occupies the Highest Place and that one day every knee will bow before him.
Jesus chose to humble himself and is exalted. He has left us the example. Each of us wants to succeed the profit motive is a God given aspect of our human nature. Like so many of human traits this one has been twisted perversely. The World has it upside down as usual.
Nowhere is this clearer than at this time of year. The mavens of advertising tell us what we want to hear. They tickle our ears! It is not their fault they but reflect our hearts back to us. This is their job and they are excellent at it. Self-giving sacrificial love is too hard for us and so our marketing friends whip up a commercial syrupy faux spirit of Christmas. Our singing stars offer us the muzak of the season but the fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves!
It is time to give yourself away, first to God who condescended to become flesh on Christmas, and then to those around especially to those who can do us no personal good. Christmas is not a spirit to be conjured but a time to be obedient; a time to follow the example of our self-giving Saviour.