The Five Cs: How is Success Defined?

Another old post, from 2007. This was written after my friends jokingly teased me about the kind of guy I should go for – someone who has all the “5C’s” and therefore fits society’s shallow definition of success. This is a prevalent joke in Malaysia and Singapore about materialism – that in order to be deemed “successful” one must have all five Cs’ – career, car, credit card, condominium, and cash. So I wrote a counter perspective, a Christian perspective, albeit one I am sure anyone can relate to, Christian or not.

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1. Career or Christ?

Career – you love what you do (or you may not), you are good at it, it gives you status and money, albeit often at a price. You have to work at keeping it, you need to please your bosses and customers, and for many of us our careers dictate our lives and the major decisions that we make.

Christ promises:

Freedom – free to be all you can be according to His blueprint for your life, free because you seek to please only Him, free because no matter where you go you know it is Jesus you are following therefore ultimately you can never go wrong.

2.Condominium or confidence?

Condominium – nice, classy unit in a nice, classy skyscraper you make your abode.

But you part with a huge chunk of your earnings per month to pay for it (unless you own the developing company or the banks that finance these guys) and there is still no guarantee that your condo would be there forever! (Remember Highland Towers, anyone? And have you bought a leasehold or freehold property?)

Confidence in Christ promises:

Certainty – knowing that there are things that belong to you that will not pass away. Like the dwelling that He has gone to prepare for you in heaven, and the eternal investment bank where your treasures will neither depreciate nor perish.

3. Cash or contentment?

Cash – who would say ‘no’ to this one? It lets you buy that Tag Heuer timepiece without interest-laden monthly installments, it can give you a comfortable retirement. Or at least, if you do not like your nose, with some cash you can still get that fixed (hopefully).

But what if the bank suddenly gets into trouble? Or no thanks to inflation, by the time you’re sixty the money you have is still not quite enough to take you to your dream destinations because AirAsia does not fly there.

Contentment with godliness promises:

Joy – the capacity to enjoy everything life has to offer regardless of circumstances, and how your nose looks. When you lack, you thank God because you know it helps you to appreciate abundance when it comes (and you know it will come because of the God in whom you trust). You are happy visiting relatives in Ulu Selangor although you really wanted to travel to the United States – because you know that ultimately, what matters most is not where you spend your vacations, but where you spend eternity.

4. A flashy car or compassion?

Car – guys, if you pull up the driveway of your date’s home in a gleaming Jaguar, I can almost guarantee that her heart will skip a beat (but I cannot guarantee that she will fall in love with you) and her dad would probably look up from his newspaper to peer at you from behind his glasses.

A fancy car takes you from Point A to Point B very comfortably and stylishly, and the sound system is so good that you forget you’re sharing the road with others. But it also contributes to mountain-high debts (for most people, at least), traffic jams and pollution.

Compassion – it has the power to take you into people’s lives where you really make a difference.

It took a little Macedonian lady to the dirty streets of Calcutta (now Kolkata). It took a princess from the gilded confines of Kensington Palace into the company of landmine victims in war-torn countries. It has taken countless missionaries from privileged countries to reach out to the poor and needy in the Third World.

And ultimately, it took Jesus, the Son of God to Calvary to die for our sins.

5. Credit card or character?

Credit card – something which, I am sure, most of us flash more often than our National Registration Identification Card (I mean the IC). It’s nice to have – just one swipe and you have that Prada bag hanging on your arm. Hey, let’s worry about the bill later because that’s exactly when it’s coming – later.

And the best thing is, you can pay the bill even later than later, that is, if you do not mind paying the interest as well. If the amount you end up owing becomes a little bit too high, just refinance. You might even get a ‘free gift’ from the nice bank.

Life is great – till you have collected seven free mugs from refinancing, and are still closer to bankruptcy than becoming debt-free!

Character promises:

Strength – the strength to choose wisdom over compulsion so that you do not do something with long-term consequences which you will regret. It develops self-confidence because you know that you can trust yourself not to get into trouble in the face of temptations. And you do not give up in the face of discouragement.

And ultimately, it leads you to true success because a person with character will choose to walk in the Spirit even when it is much easier and more pleasurable to choose the works of the flesh.

So, which set of Five C’s do you think you want? Jesus says that if we choose the Godly C’s we will come to have the rest of the C’s as well.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (NKJV, Thomas Nelson).

A super-duper offer – that’s simply too good to resist.

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