Hugh Whelchel points out two lies that together define “success” in our culture in How Then Should We Work?
The first is, “If you work hard enough, you can be anything you want to be.” The second is, “You can be the best in the world.” Put the two together, and you have this message: you achieve success when you work hard to be the best in the world in whatever you choose to do. But this definition of success — “being the master of your own destiny” — is an idol. Whelchel quotes Tim Keller:
More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are God, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme.
The Biblical alternative, drawn from the parable of the talents according to Whelchel, is to define success as being faithful with the talents we are given by God. And we should all “feel God’s pleasure when we are faithful to our calling.”