Achievement is an inherently good thing, even though there can be bad motivations for it. This week, we explore the fact that achievement does not occur in a vacuum. All our work and pursuit of achievement occurs in the context of lives lived with responsibilities to others.
It is a cliché that high achievers may neglect family, friends, and other relationships in order to pursue their goals. While the Bible affirms good stewardship of our gifts, this should never be at the expense of other basic expectations. The central expectation of all believers towards others is love.
Believers are to love one another (Rom 13:8–10). Everything we do is to be done in love (1 Cor 16:14). We are to outdo one another in showing honor (Rom 12:10). Without love, all abilities, deeds, and knowledge are but a noisy gong or clanging cymbal (1 Cor 13:1–3).
Love is expected in general, but there are also specific contexts in which love features.
Love is central to the family unit. Without proactive, sacrificial love, a family member will fail in his or her responsibilities. Husbands are to love their wives in a sacrificial manner (Eph 5:25–30). Parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Someone who does not provide for his own household is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8).
Love is central in the life of the church. The saints are equipped for the work of ministry, speaking the truth in love, with each part of the body working properly, building itself up in love (Eph 4:12–16). Believers are to bear with one another, forgiving each other (Col 3:13), and making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3).
Achievement and love
No pursuit of achievement excuses us from love. Love is a central responsibility of every believer. While we may be concerned to fan into flame the gift of God, to be good stewards of our gifts, to work diligently to provide for ourselves and others, and to fulfill our creation mandate to work and achieve, all must be done within the bounds of love.
Those who know how to work hard with laser focus will need to be sure not to neglect their key relationships. Indeed, simply avoiding neglect is too anemic. Love seeks the welfare of others in a proactive way.
Of course much of our work and achievement may be offered for the sake of others. It is possible to love in and through our work. But oftentimes love requires us to put the tools down and serve in other, more relational, ways.
In summary, the good pursuit of achievement must be defined by love, offered in love, and even curtailed by love.