A Life Well-Lived
As you undoubtedly know, people around the world are mourning the loss of Apple visionary Steve Jobs. He will be remembered as an example of forward thinking, expanding horizons, affecting millions of lives in a positive way, and as the quintessential success story and inspiration for many technophiles. Like most other famous people, he will be noted for his wide influence and cultural impact, and faults will be downplayed or forgotten. He improved the lives of many people.
Now of course nobody’s perfect. His detractors are many and vocal over such things as portrayed in the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, the price of Apple products, and the lack of open-source software, as well as possible “Big Brother” capabilities like disabling phone cameras in certain venues. Big success often is the result of a big ego and treating people poorly, as concisely portrayed in today’s Dilbert cartoon:
But we need to remember that not even the most self-sufficient and hard-working person lives in a vacuum; people all affect each other. Jobs, like everyone else, depended on existing technology and favorable circumstances: cars, phones, roads, clothing, food, education, a free country to grow up in, his birth mother not aborting him, advertising, and millions of paying and loyal customers— and even the suppliers of his early psychedelic drugs.
We all tend to measure success by fame and fortune, but how does God measure it? Jesus said, “What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or sacrifice your soul?” (Luke 9:25). Certainly the good people do will be rewarded, as well as the bad being punished. But what God wants most of all is us, to be reconciled (Rom. 5:6-11, 2 Cor. 5:18-21, Eph. 2:11-18, Col. 1:22). And if we are reconciled, we should live like it matters, trying to please God and not ignoring Him. Do we step on God the way the successful often step on people to climb the ladder? Do we use him just to get what we want? And how we treat others is how we treat God, as Jesus said in Mat. 25:31-46; how we judge others is how we will be judged (Mat. 7:2, Luke 6:38).
The valuable and well-lived life is best summarized in the famous Sermon on the Mount in Mat. 5, and is elaborated on in the Letters. It is the principled and honorable life that God values, the kind of people we are that matters. The “nice” person who “buries talents in the ground” (ref. Mat. 25:14-30) is not acting on principle or honor any more than the mean or aggressive person. The balance to aim for is to do everything to the best of our ability without sacrificing character or honor. And we must be as merciful to others as we expect God to be to us. Everything will be settled on Judgment Day.
There seems to be a wave of barbarism sweeping the globe these days. People have no tolerance at all for those not like them, yet demand unquestioned acceptance from them. They demand forgiveness but will not grant it; they demand perfection from others and excuses for themselves; they demand the financial support of others but refuse to give it to others; they demand that others be careful not to upset their own sensitivities but are quick to trample on theirs. Ironically, it is largely these kinds of people who were quick to parade Steve Jobs’ faults, while they themselves have done absolutely nothing for others.
God alone will judge the heart and motives, but we all need to walk that narrow road between excesses in either ambition and ego or laziness and fear. The world loves its own (John 15:19) and praises material and social success while despising the moral (e.g., “nice guys finish last” per the cartoon above). But “the last shall be first” in eternity (Mat. 19:30), where it really matters. What God will ask us is how we treated Him and other people, and whether we did all we could with what we were given. The truly successful person will achieve more than they were expected to and without it being at someone else’s expense. Be yourself, but be your best self as a child of God. Judgment Day will be a day of surprises.