Listening to NPR’s coverage of the Republican and Democratic national conventions, one excellent question was raised. What does it mean to be a successful nation? It’s a very important question and raises many views. Most popular today seems to be more oriented around money and prosperity. This is understandable considering the economic collapse of 2008, which still fresh in many people’s minds and experience. Although we have recovered greatly in the last couple of years (compared to some European countries) under President Obama and two congresses that have swung two directions in party strength, much of the prosperity rhetoric abides. One must ask, what does it take for our country to consider itself wealthy and blessed. We make more than most in the world, have more than those people too, and yet we still complain about an unemployment rate that is the envy of a large part of the world.
I would argue that this is not a new fad. Many strong countries like ours known as empires had issues with wanting more. England gained land for the queen. Germans wanted to make the population stronger, Rome wanted to spread their pax romana in order to control the world. Greece just wanted to see how far it’s military could stretch itself. All of these countries had eventual trouble with wants (or greed, as it should be called). Even mighty Rome entertained in the Colosseum and passed out free bread to make the masses happy.
Our country has always struggled with being greedy for more. At first, we took from the Indians, then the Mexicans, then the Africans, then the Asians, and then the Hispanics. We are a nation that exists on a staple diet of taking things, whether money, resources, or even just trust.
The problem is the word success. Why the word success? Because behind the word success, we assume the meaning of being great. But success in the eyes of God, is not always what it seems.
In Philippians 2, we get a glimpse of the greatness of Jesus. It was not a pursued greatness, but one that was surrendered to God and His purposes. This is our example, to not seek greatness through success. We seek greatness by doing the will of God, which is to love Him and love others. This could mean different things for different people. Individuals need to find these opportunities anywhere. Businesses should ask if their company policies are concerned for their workers welfare instead of just increasing profits. Government officials should ask if local, state, or even federal policies encourage a philosophy of love instead of strict party thought or their desire for power (the health-care debate applies here as much as any other topic).
What defines a successful nation? We find that in the Church as part of the Nation of God, which is not America. Love is our prerogative and command. It is our vocation. And if we carry it to our last breath, it will be our success in the Lord.
What is your definition of success? Why do you think this is success? Is it based on your desires or God’s desires for all the world?