Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Measure of Success - Loving Others

Most Christians understand that being successful cannot be simply measured in terms of successfully run projects or material gain. In fact, those parameters may be some of the most unreliable indicators of success. This is how Jesus puts it –

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Instead, in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus reminds us of what's really important.

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 second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

We've discussed how a growing love for God is a key measure of success but what about love for others? If being successful at work is in part measured by our love for others, then we ought to consider its practical implications. Here are a few that come to mind –

1. We should seek the best interest of those who work with us, even as we do our best to serve the company or institution we work for. This means rejoicing with them when they succeed and comforting them when they fail.

2. When it becomes necessary to exercise discipline or correction, we should do so in kindness and with the best interest of the fellow employee at heart (see #1). For those in positions of authority, it is helpful to realize that care is sometimes conveyed by means of correction or discipline. Just ask any parent.

3. We love others when we see and relate to them as persons created in the image of God and not simply as resources to "get the job done" or projects completed.

4. We should communicate the good news of Jesus Christ in our words, deeds and motives. Loving others means sharing life giving truths with them - nothing more true or life giving than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What other implications come to mind? Is love for others a true measure of success?
Please share your thoughts on this.


Sam Van Eman said...

Related to something I posted yesterday, I wonder how often love is the dual act of recognizing a co-worker who is going with the flow and then asking him/her to join you in something subversive. That could mean an actual project, or perhaps just a perspective change.

As someone who works with advertising students, I can't express how important it is that they not only give this kind of love, but also receive it from others.

Thanks for the post.


Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for your thoughts on this. The idea of enlisting others to join in something "subversive" - love the imagery. Do you have concrete examples?

Also, I think of this subversive behavior as refusing to conform to this world's values at work....a kind of cultural revolutionary because we know there's something better.

Rachel Mc said...

Ok, you lost me on "subversive behavior", I had to look it up in the dictionary. Honestly, I don't understand sam's comment nor your response. I do believe love for each other is a measure of success, and when a difficult person is put in your work life, it is tough to work thru that concept. I have found it very helpful, when dealing with a difficult person, to keep a running conversation with God going at the same time. I have sat thru many heated meetings with the thought "God, show me this person's heart" running thru my mind. It keeps me focused, my emotions calmed, and I pay attention more to the person than their words.

Sam Van Eman said...

Sorry for the confusion, Rachel.

Subversive is a strong term in one sense because it alludes to an overthrow or secret movement. But in another, it's simple what we do when we see a problem and respond - within the system - to address the problem. For example, Ten Thousand Villages is a business addressing problems within the business world, but it is also subversive in its approach and operation. From Wikipedia:

Ten Thousand Villages "markets handcrafted products made by disadvantaged artisans from more than 120 artisan groups in 35 countries…. [It started] more than 60 years ago through the work of Edna Ruth Byler, a pioneering businesswoman. She was moved to take action by the poverty she witnessed during a trip to Puerto Rico in 1946."

To make the connection with my first comment about a "dual act of love," I can imagine Edna recognizing a co-worker who is going with the traditional business flow and then asking him to join her in this subversive enterprise. I'm not sure how she actually recruited partners, but it could have been through love, like this: Edna - who has just "been moved to take action," sees that her co-worker is missing the point about what it means to be a businessman for the Kingdom of God. She loves him by calling him to use his gifts in this same subversive way. Together they offer a testimony to the larger business community about how a business can be based on love.

One more note. Sometimes the subversive act is not nearly this radical. For example, when I was seventeen, I worked at McDonalds. My co-workers frequently complained about various aspects of the job, but didn't do anything about it. I certainly didn't see it as love or being subversive at the time, but I started an advice column in the break room called "Sam Landers" (Get it? Ann Landers, the famed advice writer? OK, so it was a bit hokey). Employees began responding honestly to my work-related questions in the break room note book and the managers found it very helpful. Essentially, I saw co-workers going with the gossip flow and asked them to join me in a "subversive" means of communicating. This was love because it encouraged people to be honest and constructive. It also opened the door for me to encourage the managers to respond actively. It didn't change McDonald's, but at our store, there was a tiny bit of reconciling among the ranks.

Hope this is helpful.


P.S. You can read my blog post on this line of thought at

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for asking. To be honest, I didn't know exactly what Sam meant at the time but I suspected that he using that phrase to get our attention.

I interpreted it to mean - going against the flow of this world's value system. For instance, the world around us says to live for yourself, to be more concerned about your own advancement than the advancement of others. The Bible would tell us to look out for the interests of others.

Of course, Sam has expanded his thoughts on this with his second comment and given us examples of what he meant.

Every Square Inch said...


Thanks for expanding your thoughts and giving us some examples.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

I actually hate the fact that we have to consider/describe what should be normal behavior (“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35) as subversive. I realize that this has become the norm, but in a company that was established to honor Christ, it seems like it should be the norm.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI, Good post and interesting comments here, and good.

Yes, love means or involves so many things. It is a bit hard for me to sort this out in my mind, as I work for a Christian ministry, albeit in a factory context. And for those working in just any organization surely the dynamic here is different.

But somehow the love of God in Jesus must be shown and displayed over time by those of us who belong to him. And in that I take it, the new way in Jesus to be human. But it involves love, a love which would embrace everyone. This is hard in a world which knows nothing of this love. But it's a large part of what we're to make known now. It should be the tenor of our existence.

But boy is it hard under certain circumstances. Love sometimes means to hold people accountable, but to do so in the grace and gentleness of our Lord (Galatians 6:1). It meant a cross for Jesus, and we're to follow him, as resurrection people becoming like him in his death. All for the love of God to God and to others.

Thanks for your good thoughts here, and stirring us on this.

L.L. Barkat said...

Really seeing people is a vital piece. I remember last year, thinking that part of my struggle to love has been my struggle to see. Open my eyes, Lord.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Getting past my own issues or problems is important. Kind of like forgetting myself. Before I can love others. Sometimes a challenge as we face certain problems. But we must still love others, regardless.

Every Square Inch said...

LL, I find that God is turning my attention to this point - loving my neighbor by the grace of God.

Ted, you're right - it's hard to love others when we are foremost in our own minds. It's like Keller's quote from last week's quote of the week.