Some Thoughts on Success

Some Thoughts on Success

Glynn Cardy 5/12/2021

Today is a day for whakawhetai – thanksgiving – gratitude.

Particularly those of us who are able, on this day we give thanks for being back together again, singing together again, smiling together again.  Towards the end of the service, we will also give thanks for Fa’amanu’s ministry among us, and the presence and participation of his and Janet’s family.

Pageant Sundays are usually a time to dress up, watch and applaud children perform, and smile at the somewhat painful puns and jokes that found their way into the script.  This year it’s a little different.  With the animals getting a voice.

I’ve been mulling over these last few days that word called ‘success.’  It popped up in an interview with the new leader of the National party, Chris Luxon, when the reporter tried to infer he was out of touch with ordinary New Zealanders due to the number of houses he owned.   Knowing that many MPs, on both sides of the house, own multiple properties, I thought the reporter was reaching.  How ‘in touch’ are any of us outside the circles of our friendships, acquaintances, and culture?  I think the better question is how good is any politician or leader (or you and me) at genuine listening, absorbing what we hear in our heart as well as our head, allowing ourselves to be changed, and gently encouraging others to do the same?

But Chris decided to respond to the reporter by saying in effect that the houses were a sign of his success, and he’s proud of being successful.  Which is pretty standard thinking in today’s world.  Wealth means you’re successful. 

The Bible though has a lot to say on the subject of wealth.  Much more than on those subjects like abortion, euthanasia, and queer rights, that seem to be the worry when a leader identifies as Christian. 

The Bible generally is pretty skeptical about wealth.  Yes, it’s a blessing, but its also a curse.  Yes, it’s brings power, but it also brings responsibility.  Yes, ability and hard work might be involved in the acquisition of wealth, but things like class, race, gender, good fortune and good health are huge.  Above all it’s a gift, given for a time (you can’t take it with you when you’re dead!) for the benefit not just of yourself but for the wellbeing and betterment of the whole community.  Forget that, and it becomes a curse.  Something you build strong gates around to protect.

The Bible also talks about success.  The Beatitudes are a good starting point.

I think success is about contentment.  Being at peace, at one, in body, mind, and soul.  I think it is about enjoying the moment.  The smiles, the friendships, the love given to you and received from you.  I think it is about making food, eating food, sharing food.  I think it is the magic of singing.  I think it is the comfort of an animal’s cuddles.  I think it is the wonder of a new thought or a deep silence.  I think it is these little things that money can’t buy, and therefore can’t take away.  I think it is the joy of seeing someone regain their health, mental or physical, after a trauma.  I think it is the joy of helping someone, knowing that in helping we too are being helped.  I think it is the practice of gratitude – which starts with being grateful for all the things we dislike and like about ourselves, and about how we live.  Be kind to ourselves, be kind to others.  So, the successful person might indeed have seven houses.  But they might also live in a tent.  It’s not your bank balance, or possessions, or job, or degrees that determine whether you are successful. 

In Bible language, all this might be summed up by saying that the successful person is the person who has an open heart.

So, let’s open our hearts wide today – to children, animals, one another, the beauty of this building and the beauty of singing – with whakawhetai (thanksgiving).