In his book Ethics, Bonhoeffer says, "The world will allow itself to be subdued only by success. It is not ideas or opinions which decide, but deeds. Success alone justifies wrongs done."
As Eric explains, Hitler was popular because he succeeded. He ended Germany's worst depression ever, caused by its defeat in World War I, and after France fell he completely eliminated the humiliation Germany felt from their loss in the last war. Hitler even went so far as to have the French sign the conditions of surrender in the same forest, the same railroad car, and even sitting on the same chair where the Germans signed their terms of surrender 23 years earlier. Or as Eric writes, "The old has passed away, and behold, he had made all things new." If there were polls taken at that time, Hitler would have had approval ratings in the 90 percentile. The German people were ignoring Hitler's slaughter of thousands of Germans and others because of his achievements. In the end "Hitler was destroying Germany through success."
Fast forward to today, and we see what happens when there is no "success." For decades now "The American Dream" has been promoted as the latest form of success: a college education, high-paying job, big house, fancy cars, etc., all under the slogan "You can have it all." For many of those decades it appeared that success was for anyone who wanted it, whether they applied themselves or not. Increased credit card debt, homeownership for those who couldn't afford it, more and more government entitlement programs, promotion of self-worth and entitlement to the "good things in life," all whitewashed the underlying destructive path America was on. In 2008 it all came tumbling down. The failures became apparent.
When failure hits, a scapegoat is needed. Surely it was because those rich people on Wall Street stole this dream and wanted it only for themselves. Now we have Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protestors demanding that the riches of the "haves" be taken and distributed to the "have-nots."
How should a Christian respond to all of this? Are the protestors right, and should we support them? Or does God call us in a different direction?
Eric Metaxas points us to how God defines success. He tells us how Bonhoeffer came to realize that "God was not interested in success, but in obedience. If one obeyed God and was willing to suffer defeat and whatever else came one's way, God would show a kind of success that the world couldn't imagine."
God is telling us that success is not based on what car we drive, or size of house we live in, or even how much wealth we have accumulated over our lives. It is based, rather, on our obedience to His Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
He shows us this through Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Jesus was always obedient to His Father's commands. By the world's standards Jesus was a failure and should be ignored, but through His obedience He attained the ultimate success and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
As Christians we should value obedience to Jesus over any worldly success. We should also recognize that every good thing we have comes from God, and not for our sole benefit but so that we can use it all to glorify Him.
Which leads me to my final point. What the protestors are promoting is what the Bible would call covetousness. There really isn't any such thing as "haves" and "have-nots." We all are "haves." If you read the parable of the talents, you will notice two things. First, each servant was given a different amount, not equally divided, and commanded to manage what they were given. God is not showing favorites. He gives us all different amounts of wealth, intelligence, creativity, and so forth, and commands us to manage what He has given us to His glory, not for our worldly success.
We also see that when the master returned and asked for an accounting from each, he didn't take from the two that were successful and give to the one that was lazy. Rather, he condemned the lazy one for not doing anything. He then took away the talents the lazy one had and gave it to the two that had much, and said: "For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25:29-30)
Let none of us Christians be found, when Jesus returns, to be like the lazy one, not applying what we have been given. Let us not be among those who are demanding that we be given what God has given others. Instead let us be found content with what God has given us, actively obeying His Word and multiplying our talents for His glory.
Note: All quotes are taken from Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.
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