What Price Success?
Success has made a failure of many a man.
Every Man Wants Success
Johnny Devoe started adult life as a stock boy at a paint store. He was blessed with a mind for business. While working for minimum wage, Johnny was saving money. Soon enough money had been saved to buy a rent house. It was not many years before Johnny owned 12 pieces of rental property. Then, he owned the paint store that he had advanced to manage. Soon, Johnny owned a chain of paint stores. Today, Johnny Devoe is worth millions.
When Johnny was 21, he was met Sharon. She was a beautiful young lady working behind the counter at McDonald’s. Sharon and Johnny fell in love and married. Three years later their first daughter was born. She was a darling child, and a musical prodigy to boot. The girl played in music recitals as early as four years of age. Then Johnny and Sharon had a son. He loved the things most boys enjoy: tee-ball, video-games, fishing, and flying kites.
Somethings go unnoticed. While the boy was playing tee-ball, and the little girl was giving music recitals, Johnny was not there. He didn’t have time for music recitals, play video games or endure a kid’s baseball game. There were important things to do; stores to manage, rent to collect, money to be made.
As years passed, Johnny and Sharon drifted apart. Eventually they divorced and Johnny seldom seemed to have time to pick up the children for his parental privileges and responsibilities.
When the girl was fifteen, in her desperate desire for attention the girl was easy prey for the “sweet nothings” of a teenage Casanova. Soon she was pregnant. Another statistic - a pregnant teenager who dropped out of school. Johnny’s son had his teenage battles. He was involved with a gang, using drugs and eventually drug pushing. He just got out of jail.
Today, Johnny lives alone in a $900,000 home, and drives a $120,000 Mercedes to work. That Rolex watch on his arm cost more than a stock boy in his paint store makes in six months. Others in the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary look at Johnny and point him out as a self-made man, a true success story.
Measuring a Man’s Success
Is Johnny Devoe a success? Unfortunately, some see Johnny’s money and power as the measures that matter. Those measures don’t include the price tag of that success. Johnny gained his success, money and business acumen by sacrificing his family.
Is that a good trade? You answer the question regarding your life. Does the statement, “He who has the most toys wins?” accurately measure a man’s life? Doubtful! President Woodrow Wilson spoke of people, “Who are defeated by their secondary successes.” It is possible to win some earthly things and lose things much more important.
What are your goals? What you want may be different than Johnny Devoe. It likely is. I’ve seen men go to great lengths pursuing:
- Being a scratch golfer
- Collectible guns
- A level of advanced education
- Corporate position
- Muscle cars
- College or pro sports
- A stock market portfolio
- Horses and livestock
- Land owned
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those goals. They work, as long as a man is careful not to ignore the meaningful in pursuing those interests or goals.
What Drives You?
What motivates you toward your goals? Knowing what motivates us will help us make better decisions regarding what we value.
Jephthah, was a judge of Israel. Like Johnny Devoe, Jephthah was a success. What Jephthah accomplished was likely motivated by either his family background or events of his youth.
Jephthah’s young life was hard. His mother was a prostitute (Judges 11:1). In a dispute over a future inheritance, Jephthah’s half-brothers kicked him out of the family home. Jephthah’s half-brothers did not want him around but Jephthah had some inherent abilities that attracted others. After his exile he moved to a city named Tob, where vain men (we would call them criminals) were attracted to Jephthah’s leadership. Even though he was the offspring of a woman of ill repute and was rejected by his siblings, Jephthah became a warrior chieftain.
In time, the nation of Ammon attacked Israel. It seemed the Israelites would be overwhelmed by the Ammonite raiders. In a crisis, Jephthah’s brothers said, We have a brother who is quite a fighter. Maybe he will help us. Those who had rejected Jephthah were now appealing for his help.
Perhaps, Jephthah thought, This is my chance to gain acceptance and respect. Jephthah decided to help, but only if the Israelites will make him their leader. Since the Israelites had few options, the agreement was made.
Under Jephthah’s leadership, the Ammonites were put to flight. There was a resounding victory. Jephthah’s warriors attacked Ammonite communities deep inside Ammon.
Did Jepthah, Win or Lose?
Jephthah wanted the honor, promotion, accolades, benefits, etc. of success. He put himself whole-heartedly into defeating the Ammonites. His commitment was extreme. He promised God a burnt offering if Israel was victorious.
Jephthah was over the top in his commitment to his job. With no consideration of unintended consequences Jephthah promised God, that when he returned home, he would sacrifice the first thing that came out the door to greet him.
It is clear. Jephthah wanted this. He wanted to impress, to win, to succeed. Jephthah didn’t consider what the cost of that success might be.
No big deal. Jephthah won! When Jephthah returned, And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and behold, his daughter came out to meet him . . . (Judges 11:34) His beloved daughter was sacrificed on the altar for the sake of Jephthah’s success. There are times when the corporate promotion are the golf score does not matter as much. The price was paid at home. Jephthah lost at home, even while he won at work!
A Reckless Pursuit of Success
What might Jephthah have done differently?
- He could have thought about his motives in wanting this particular success. Wrong motives produce reckless decisions.
- Before Jephthah committed to sacrifice as a way to assure success, he should have considered the “law of unintended consequences.” No decision or action happens in a vacuum. There are always ripples that affect your spouse and children.
- Jephthah could have specified to God and himself the exact price he was willing to pay for success. Instead, Jephthah’s ambitions caused him to sign a blank check. Jephthah did not know what his accomplishments would cost his family. Always know the cost!
- Jephthah should have kept his family and home foremost. The ambition to defeat Ammon and to “be somebody” caused his family to fade in their significance. .
Jephthah’s idea may have been that his daughter was going to have it better than he’d ever had it. Jephthah provided but did not protect. Sadly, his daughter paid the price of Jephthah’s ambition. He was careless. He did not envision this outcome. No man ever does.
Jephthah was a successful failure!
What are some possible behaviors of a modern successful failure?
A Pastor’s List of a Modern Man’s Successful Failure
- The man who often works late, and on Sunday, limiting his family’s opportunity to see him leading the way in worship.
- Living in the right neighborhood, but too far from the church to easily get the family to church.
- Having a large investment portfolio and owning lots of “stuff” but being spiritually bankrupt. A symptom: the man’s children never see him in the prayer room.
- Celebrating sports heroes, movie stars, musicians and political leaders while at the same time having no time for his children – who would like to see their Dad as their own hero.
- Having time to run the store, but not having time to read Bible stories to the kids.
- The workaholic who enjoys the acclaim of a job well-done, but is never present for the daughter’s recital or the son’s school play.
Applying the Principle
Answer the following questions for yourself.
- What are the areas in which you are at the greatest risk of becoming a successful failure?
- In what ways do your interests and goals have the potential to affect your children negatively?
- What three things could you change this week, that might keep you from going in the direction of sacrificing your child(ren) on the altar of your success?
Of the three things select one to do differently, beginning today.
Rev. Carlton Coon Sr.
What Price Success comes from a lesson found in Carlton's book Biblical Parenting. If interested in more information about Biblical Parenting or the second book set of lessons on family titled Beating the Marriage Busters, visit CarltonCoonsr.com. There are over 25 church growth and personal growth resources available at the site.