A couple of years ago, I began enthusiastically researching methods for starting and running a small business. There are a million resources and mentors out there willing to guide you along your way to becoming successful in this field. I learned a lot. A lot of good stuff. And also a lot of stuff that flies in the face of biblical Christianity.
For example, most of the mentors who are selling the “best method to start a small business and become a millionaire” rarely factor in the biblical virtue of humility in the worldview they endorse. It’s all about appearances – if you look successful (wear the right clothes, live in their right house on the beach, post pictures of the lavish parties you get invited to, etc.) then people will flock to you and your product. But as people flock to you, be careful to never appear too available or accessible. You must maintain that air of elite-ness or your influence will be severely undercut. Basically, put yourself on a pedestal and people will worship you; come alongside them and they will despise you or, worse, never leave you alone.
Oh, another biggie in the world of being a successful person with high self-esteem and and lots of ambition is this: Always surround yourself with people who will only build you up, tell you that you can accomplish amazing things – people who are already successful and good for you to emulate. Never get in the habit of associating with people in lower positions than yourself, with people who are self-limiting or a little directionless. These people are not your friends – they are your following.
The apostle Paul writes, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).
Also, Luke records Jesus as saying of his ministry, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (7:22b-23).
Our Lord, the most “successful” and powerful human to ever live, didn’t desire prestige. He didn’t brag about the fact that He could hang out with the Pharisees anytime he wanted to. He didn’t belittle lost sinners behind their backs and then try and “sell” life to them. He associated with “embarrassing” people. He ministered to them, healed them, taught them, died for them. He was “successful” in his mission because He was working for someone else – He was here as a servant of His Father. There was no sense of selfish ambition whatever. He was sent to preach the gospel and die, and that’s what He did. In today’s Top Ten Traits of a Successful Person, “willingness to die for the sake of someone ‘beneath’ you” is pretty rare. So is even simple humility and genuine interest in the rabble who may admire and follow you.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people becoming wealthy by doing what they love. I think small businesses are awesome. (Obviously these Scripture passages apply much more broadly, but since small business is what I mentioned in the first paragraph, I might as well stick with a theme, right?) But it’s good to keep in mind that many if not most of the big-name entrepreneurs out there selling their method for being top dog are coming at it from a completely different angle than followers of Christ ought to.
We are here as servants and sons, as Christ was. We should humble ourselves and wait for God to lift us up, not preemptively clamber up onto our pedestal and try to look shiny so people will love us. Because if we are faithful to imitate Christ, God will lift us up, as He has His Son. To continue the first quotation above, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
That’s the point: to the glory of God the Father. Don’t listen to anyone who starts to sound like they’re saying “to the glory of you.”