Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Measure of Success

Lately, my free evenings often end with me going to bed crushed by discouragement. I have so many plans and goals of things I want to get done and end up doing only a small fraction of them. Sometimes the problem is that I was lazy and chose to waste time, but more often the problem was basic math. Ten hours’ worth of work cannot be completed in three.  

When the numbers don’t add up, there’s really only one solution: set priorities. This is not something I’m good at. I want to do everything. How can I decide which of the many good things I can do is most important?

Fortunately, about 2,000 years ago Jesus answered my question. Well, actually, he answered some lawyer’s question, but you'll see the connection.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

Here we have a very clear statement of God’s priorities for our lives. It can all be summed up in one word: love. Loving God and loving others is more important than my work or my chores. It’s more important than my social life or my health. If I have a day when I get nothing done but love God and my neighbors well, that day will be a success in God’s eyes. And conversely, if I finish all my tasks at work for the next month, write fifty viral blog posts and a bestselling novel and develop the conditioning of an Olympic athlete but I don’t do it out of real love for God, then all those accomplishments are worthless.

My work and my writing are valuable, but only to the extent that they express my love for God, my coworkers and the people who read my work. And caring for my body has its place as a way to honor my maker and make sure I have the energy for my other loving actions. But I can’t let those things take away from what is most important.

These commands may be simple, but they are not easy to follow. Fortunately, God’s grace is there to cover the thousands of times we fail to live out these commands each day. He sees us, not as failures, but as His children clothed in the righteousness and perfect love of Christ. And focusing on living that love out sets us free from the burden of self-imposed expectations.

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