The second temptation, and one that is a natural product of the first is the seduction of tying our self-image and that of our organization to our financial status. This may seem less threatening than the first temptation, but beware. Consider the ways that organizations talk about themselves and measure success. While not-for-profit ministries may pride themselves on leading with mission-focused accomplishments, true success is almost always measured in financial terms. Pastors talk to other pastors about the size of their congregation, the success of the latest building project and whether they’re giving has gone up or down. Presidents of Christian schools, colleges and universities speak to alumni in terms of growing enrollment, new academic buildings and an increasing endowment. Owners of businesses speak to shareholders about profits, reinvestment and share prices. And for each of these, whether the pastor of a small church, the president of a community not-for-profit organization or the owner of a growing business, the financial success of their respective organization reflects heavily on their own self-image and reputation.
This connection between financial success and self-image starts at home. Our American culture idolizes the financially successful and as a result has developed a culture that measures self-image in financial terms. While we may deeply desire to value our neighbor based solely on his or her integrity and contribution to the greater societal good, we find it hard to keep out of the mix ingredients such as the size of their house, the cost of their car, the places they vacation and the schools their children attend. When we are called to positions of leadership this temptation only increases. Now our self-worth is determined both by our personal financial status and the success of the organization we lead. When we allow our self-image to be determined by these factors we have fallen prey to the second temptation.
Steward leaders are free from this bondage. They find their sole identity in Jesus Christ. In times of financial success or struggle, they remain steadfast in their understanding that they are God’s beloved child. He seeks our obedience and faithfulness, not financial success. What determines your identity?