Christ's Measure of Success
God’s Measure of Success
“Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”
In an age where numbers and accomplishments have become our measure of success, it is easy to get caught up in the obsession with accomplishment. We measure everything by the results, which are determined by the final numbers. For business, the bottom line becomes revenue and return. We calculate a business leader's success by how large he grows the company and how much he increases the profits. In sports, a coach is measured by his many wins and how far his team goes in the playoffs. In today’s world, the question is never about “who is the person?” The question is, “What has the person done?” In the world, achievement trumps character.
Tragically, we often bring the same mindset into the church. Churches with increasing membership and extensive facilities and attracting large crowds are seen as successful. Pastors who can draw crowds are seen as “successful” and are asked to speak at conferences. This obsession with numbers affects anyone involved in ministry. Whether it is a youth ministry or leading a home Bible study, when the numbers are increasing, we feel good about what we are doing. However, when the numbers decline, we become discouraged and question our ministry ability.
In this parable, Jesus reorients our perspective. He describes three individuals. Two are rewarded, and one is condemned. The first servant is given five talents (the equivalent of about 75 years of a laborer’s wages). He immediately begins to labor and doubles the amount. He gives the second servant two talents (again, a sizeable amount). He also works faithfully and doubles the amount. The last servant, fearing to take the risk that might result in a loss, buries the amount for safekeeping. While we rightfully focus on this third servant for his fear and unfaithfulness, we must recognize the basis of evaluation. The servants are not evaluated by their achievements but rather by their faithfulness to advance the master's business. While their results were different, their reward was the same. They are evaluated based on their faithfulness to be engaged in the master's business. The third servant was condemned not because he failed to achieve any results but because he was unfaithful and unwilling to serve his master.
In this story Christ is making it clear that in his kingdom work, he evaluates people, not on the results and outcomes but upon the faithfulness that they perform their task. In other words, God evaluates us by how faithful we are in our ministry rather than the results of our ministry. This is a theme we see throughout the scriptures. Jesus looks at the heart of the person rather than the outward performance. Jesus commends the widow who gave “the widows mite” rather than the rich who gave large sums. In Christ’s economy, the first will be last, and the least will become the greatest. God is more concerned about our character and our faithfulness than he is about what we accomplish. In Christ's kingdom, we are not to look at numbers. Instead, we are to look at the opportunities before us. If we can minister to one person and are faithful in that ministry, that is more important than striving to obtain excellent results. Instead of looking for “dynamic and large ministries,” look for the opportunities to serve Christ that he presents to us. For some, that might mean ministering to a growing and dynamic youth program, but for others, it might mean having a youth group of only three teens. If we are faithful to respond to the opportunities set before us, then Christ will reward us, even if the world considers it insignificant. The question we need to ask ourselves is this, “Am I using who I am and what I have to serve Christ in the location I am at?”