Success drives motivation in the workplace. But what is your success rooted in? Does your definition of success hinder your motivation as a professional?
As Christians, we live according to the Lord’s definition of success. The great commission defines a Christian’s success. We’re called to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). As believers, we must keep this life-defining goal at the forefront of our lives. But are we allowed to have “success” in the world’s terms (i.e., money, position, assets)?
In passages like Mark 10 with the rich young ruler, we see the conflict between the love of money and Christ’s kingdom, and Jesus says “you cannot serve two masters…. God and money” (Matthew 6:24). However, we also see characters throughout Scripture who God blesses with riches and success in the world’s eyes—Job, Joseph, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea, Lydia. How do we reconcile this?
Success as a Christian
In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul speaks specifically to rich believers:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
In this passage, Paul does not condemn riches as sinful, but he commands believers to use their resources in a way that honors the Lord. Believers are to be humble, generous, and recognize the source of their riches. Wealth is not a steady foundation; only Christ can give certainty and life. Money cannot be the believer’s first love and hope.
In addition to recognizing the source of our wealth, we do all things for our Lord, not man, as seen in Colossians 3:22-24:
“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”
The believer doesn’t do his work to please others or gain their recognition and commendation. We work to serve the Lord and bring glory and honor to Him. This means that we still work hard with integrity and passion, but we do it from a different heart motive. That heart motive is what transforms our idea of success. Instead of being motivated by moving up in the company, getting that raise, or receiving recognition, we are motivated by a desire to please and honor the Lord. This defines our success in the professional world and our motivation for day-to-day work stems from it.
So, what does this mean for the Christian in a fast-paced, competitive, workplace? Here’s a couple of practical applications.
Remember that money isn’t sinful, but Christ is your Lord
Remember that any wealth, money, possessions (i.e., symbols of worldly success) are blessings from the Lord. When you’re serving money as your lord, you idolize these gifts and make them the center of your life. You take pride in them and chase after more with a greedy heart. Scripture consistently warns about these dangers of money and greed. Money and wealth are resources and gifts; they’re not things for you to obsess over, take pride in, or hold over others. Christ is the Lord of your heart as a believer and gives you these things for the purpose of using them to honor Him. Store up heavenly treasure.
Work hard, but do it from the right heart
Your focus in work isn’t to please others, but that doesn’t mean you sit around and proactively displease your employer. If anything, the Lord places a higher calling on your work ethic and performance. You’re working to honor the King of the universe. That’s not something to take lightly. However, remember that the Lord cares about your heart in your work. The Gospel does not call us to work that we might gain the Lord’s favor. The Lord gives us His favor when He redeems us in Christ. Instead, we strive to honor the Lord with our actions which flow out of a changed heart. Spend time in the Word and ask the Lord to continue shaping your heart, then get to work!
Keep your focus on your higher calling
Remember that as a believer, you live for an otherworldly home and heavenly kingdom. We’re “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13) which means we don’t live for this world. Our ultimate mission and calling in everything we do is to share the Gospel and make disciples. The great commission isn’t reserved for mission trips. It infiltrates and consumes every aspect of our lives, including work. That means your coworkers are your “mission field.” When’s the last time you had a Gospel-oriented conversation with one of them? Do they know that you’re a believer? Is the Gospel evident in your words, actions, and life? Money is a blessing; work is an opportunity; the Gospel gives life.
So, success lies in honoring the Lord with your money, work, and heart. Your motivation to work stems from your definition of success. Still struggling with motivation? Maybe you need to redefine your idea of success.