At Work & Public Square & Theology 101

What Does Forbes’ "30 under 30" List Say about Success?

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When you first start your career, it sometimes feels as if you will never get to the place where you can really make a difference. If that’s you, take a look at Forbes’ “30 under 30” list.

Featuring individuals (under the age of 30) who have made waves in industries ranging from finance to education to Hollywood, the list highlights some of the most driven, talented young people including:

  • Nic Borg, age twenty-seven, co-founder of the online educational platform, Edmodo;
  • Bruno Mars, age twenty-eight, a musician who will be singing at the Super Bowl this year;
  • Olivia Wilde, age twenty-nine, actress and social entrepreneur;
  • and Lucas Duplan, age twenty-two, founder of Clinkle, the controversial start-up that is trying completely redefine financial transactions.

There’s no doubt this is an inspiring list showcasing some amazing accomplishments. But this list might also make you feel pretty hopeless. You might be wondering, “How did these people get so far in such a short amount of time, and why am I not doing the same?”

That’s because we tend to feel successful when other people are recognizing the impact of what we are doing. When the spotlight is shining on us, we receive external affirmation that gives us a sense of identity and achievement.

How Does the Bible Define Success?

But is that how the Bible defines success? The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 indicates that the servant who doubled his two talents was just as successful as the servant who doubled his five talents.

So what does that mean for us today? According to Hugh Whelchel,

In the most general sense, we can conclude that the talents are “creational, deriving from the creative activity of God, who invites us through their use to be co-creators of God to make God’s world work and to build up the body of Christ.”

In Genesis 1:28, God commands man to take dominion over the earth and cultivate the creation. He gives us whatever we need in order to carry out that calling. The resources God gives us to fulfill the cultural mandate also come with responsibility. Whelchel continues,

And in this context we can be assured that whatever the Lord gives us now he will ask us about later, expecting us to diligently work with these resources for the furtherance of his kingdom. 

In other words, success has very little to do with money or recognition. It has everything to do with good stewardship of what God has given us.

That means that we need to be faithful and work as hard as we can in whatever we do. For some, it might mean creating something that happens to make them world’s next multimillionaire or gets them placed on the “30 under 30” list. For others, it might mean working behind the scenes and remaining steadfast despite the lack of glamour or recognition.

Relief – and Responsibility

That’s both a relief and a huge responsibility. Whelchel says,

[The biblical definition of success] should convict. We are called to greater heights of stewardship then we ever before realized. But it’s also relieving: we are only called to steward our own talents and opportunities, not those allotted to people like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs.

So take a look at Forbes’ “30 under 30” list. Be inspired to be the best you can be. But at the end of the day, when you have done your very best to advance the kingdom of God with the skills and passions you have been given, rest content that you have been a success.

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