Monday, August 25, 2008

Lonely at the Top

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 25:23

You’ve heard that old saying about success: It’s lonely at the top.

And for some people, achieving success and celebrity status can turn out to be a little too lonely. Let’s look at Howard Hughes’ example.

If you’re unfamiliar with him, Hughes was one of the richest men in the world when he died in 1976. An extremely successful businessman and founder of Hughes Aircraft Company, the Houston, Texas native was also an aviation pioneer, movie producer and real estate developer – and that’s not to mention his considerable financial stakes in mining and communications.

In so many ways, he was a man of the world.

And he was no doubt a huge success by the world’s standards. But during his final years, Hughes became a recluse plagued by paranoia and even an extreme fear of germs. Wracked with pain caused in part by the injuries suffered in a devastating plane crash, he eventually died of kidney failure. Perhaps it was no accident that this man of the world left his worldly existence while flying to Houston!

Obviously, Hughes’ story isn’t typical. And it’s unlikely that most of us will become billionaires any time soon. But his example does point to the pitfalls of living for worldly success.

Striving to climb the proverbial ladder of success seems to be engrained in many of us. We want a bigger house, a better job and a fancier car. And above all, we need to impress others. It comes down to our own little world of power, fame and personal advancement.

We want it all and we want more of it. Ultimately, it’s all about US.

It’s hard to believe that we have it all so backward. According to the Bible, there’s no such thing as a self-made man or woman. Everything that we have – our money, possessions, job and health – is all due to God’s generosity. He gives it freely and can also take it away without notice.

God has a totally different definition of success. Instead of living self-centered lives, Christ-followers need to celebrate Him by doing the most good with the resources we’re given. Our motivation needs to revolve around doing what’s best for others. It’s our faithfulness to God that’s the real gold standard of success.

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Jesus asked His followers. “Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Those are tough questions we all need to answer. But from God’s perspective, having it all in this world can turn out to mean having absolutely nothing.

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