Being first usually implies victory: a deal closed, a battle won, a goal accomplished. It is a typical benchmark in the working world. But as Christians, how do we reconcile success when Jesus clearly calls the least, the last, and the lowly?
Our goal for work cannot be society’s template for success: win at all costs, climb higher, work longer and harder. Work becomes all-consuming. Preaching a sermon on work, Tim Keller says, “You will not have a meaningful life without work but work cannot be the meaning of your life.”
As Christians, the very notion of success is turned on its head in the finished work of Jesus. Christ’s work on the cross was only for the last, the least, and the lowly. Said another way, anyone with a pulse. Because of His selfless act, we no longer ask, “where can I succeed?” Instead, we ask, “Where can I serve?” It's not just coming out on top, but also being the first to listen, to apologize, and to make amends in the mundanity of office life. Instead of wondering when the next bonus will come, we can ask, “where is the darkness in my work and how can I shed light?” Or, “How can I model excellence in my specific line of work?”
Christ never promised the success of His people in the eyes of the world. He has promised something far better; that He would return and renew all things, including our work. To that end we labor unto glory; our success fueled in simple faithfulness to the King of this world and the work that happens within it.