How do we measure success?

Church and finance |

How do you know if you’ve “made it”?

A recent survey of Americans asked what “making it” in the United States means to them. Responses were compared with what the people surveyed actually have.

  • The average income of the respondents is $57,426. They view $147,104 as “successful.”
  • Ideally, respondents want a 31-hour work week, a 10-minute commute, and 5.3 weeks of time off per year. And they want to work from home.
  • The ideal situation is to be married and have kids, and have four best friends.
  • Success to the respondents means owning a home worth $461,000 and a car worth $42,000.

The survey also gave respondents five choices and asked where they would spend their time if they “made it.” Here are their responses:

  • 28 percent – Enjoying friends and family.
  • 23 percent – Exploring.
  • 21 percent – Working.
  • 17 percent – Relaxing.
  • 11 percent – Helping people in need.

So how do you measure success? Does it have to do primarily with your financial status, your family cohesion, your health, your work satisfaction, your spiritual well-being – or a combination of these factors?

Jesus is quoted in all three Gospels addressing this question. Here’s what he had to say:

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:24-26, Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:35-38).

A quick overview of the life of Jesus would suggest he practiced what he preached. The question is, do we practice what Jesus preached?

Jesus was clearly pursuing success as it related to God’s call on his life, which for him meant giving up many of these common pursuits American society would hold up as essential.

The writer of Hebrews also speaks to this idea of success, using the imagery of running a race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

Maybe the topic we should address is the balance between our earthly pursuits and our eternal calling. Discussing together how we meet our earthly needs while staying true to our eternal calling is the task of the local church.

If you are ready to have these discussions about purposeful living and the meaning of success, you might consider a group study using The Gospel of Luke: The relationship between Salvation, Discipleship & Wealth; or Generous Living in a Self-Centered World, both of which can be found as free downloadable documents from Everence® Financial.

Beryl Jantzi head shot


Beryl Jantzi
Director of Stewardship Education