In our backyard we have three different types of roses. There are several differences between them that I have noticed over the years that we have had the home, but the one I notice most often is how one of the three wants to grow at all costs. It puts so much energy into growing tall that we rarely get any flowers from it, maybe 3 or 4 a year. Meanwhile the other two produce flowers each week for months on end but grow their stalks much slower.

If this bush could reason, I am sure it would be very proud of itself, thinking we must appreciate its amazing ability to grow. But we don’t. It is a constant ‘thorn’ in our side, quite literally, because we must trim it so regularly. It’s to the point that we wonder whether it is a plant we want to keep simply because the rewards are not in line with the cost we pay. If it could grow nonstop it would soon be the tallest—and ugliest—plant in our garden. Quite naturally it only wants to grow taller, but in order to do this it has to pour more and more of its energy into its stem, which gets thicker and thicker to support all the height that it has gained.

I wonder how many people are living similar lives in the eyes of God. They are constantly striving, and constantly winning at races that God is not at all interested in. The reality is that they are more of a ‘cost’ to God than any benefit they provide to His Kingdom. If you look at their lives one could easily be fooled into thinking they are successful. They are the first to tell you how amazing they and their lives are. They are the first to be asked onto various boards and they drive the nicest cars, living in ways that tell you very clearly that they have made it.

But what is their real production? Is everything they produce just consumed in helping them reach the next level, or is the world actually worse off because they are there?

So why do the ‘successful’ use their success the way they do, and why do they spend most of it on self-glorification and consumption—much like my annoying rose bush does?

Successful people often think they are the reason they ended up with more than others, and this justifies their thinking about why they feel they can consume as they choose. They are blind to how things really work.

How often do we hear in the news of the great suddenly falling from their heights due to something that no one saw coming? Why does that happen? Isn’t it because growth is what they measure and strive for—but where does that lead?

The one thing we are constantly doing to our ‘growth’ rose plant is trimming it because there are limited nutrients/resources placed in our world by God, and there is only so much to go around. Just as I do continually to my rose bush, God does to those who grow too much, yet produce very little actual fruit—He cuts them back. That is the only rational thing to do; otherwise, these plants will soon take all the nutrients from the soil and leave nothing for those around them.

What is their reaction to being cut back? They strive to get back to where they were, so they consume their new wealth on themselves thinking this will lead to more success/growth, and it may for a while, but then…

We have all seen in the movies how the rich die; there is very little sorrow or sadness over losing the person. Mostly it is just a bunch of greedy people fighting over what is left. Yet just a month before the rich person died most people were jealous of them. Is this not strange?

Likely, if we took a close look at their lives, we would find that little real ‘fruit’ had come from their lives. This should tell us why things have turned out as they have.

That is one of the big differences between God and us—how we measure success. God looks at the inside, while we can’t easily do that, and so by default, we look at the outside to those external things of a person’s life that ‘help’ us judge how successful they are.

So how do we change our viewpoint? How can we see people more like God does?

It is not as hard to change our perspective as you might think. It simply involves using a different measuring stick in order to see things more like God does. This is the beginning step toward godliness.