Money, mediocrity, and the myth of 'making it' (part 2)

Tom Chevis 09 Feb 21
In part 1, we looked at what was good in a church minister telling a bunch of music college CU students that most of them would not ‘make it’, even though in some ways, such a message didn’t feel quite right. I suggested that perhaps there may be a better way…

Exposing the myth

Remember the premise for that minister speaking so bluntly? It was the belief that ‘making it’ is the only good outcome of a music degree. And I’d like to take issue with this. This belief is surely founded on a serious error, namely, that ‘good’ = ‘successful in the world’s eyes’, which as we know is normally characterised by fame, money, and reputation. Yet any of us who knows our Bibles knows full well that this is patently false. Just after rebuking the Pharisees by telling them that nobody can serve both God and Money, Jesus issues this stern declaration concerning worldly values (Luke 16:15b):

For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

So, if we, as a musician, think that ‘making it’, in the sense of achieving fame, money or reputation, is the only good outcome of our music degree, then we’ve got a seriously substandard view of what the Lord considers good. Moreover, if (as we hypothesised in part 1) we had coated that desire to ‘make it’ with a Christian veneer, whereby we’d persuaded ourselves that God had ‘called’ us to a successful career (and in so doing essentially promised us fame, money and/or reputation), then frankly we’d foolishly be trusting in a not-especially-subtle form of prosperity gospel. And that certainly is ‘an abomination in the sight of God.

Rather, we know that biblically speaking, ‘good’ is characterised by love, mercy, justice, integrity, humility, servant-heartedness and productiveness. The ‘good’ is:

  • loving and worshipping God [1], shown in obedience to Him [2]
  • loving others (especially the needy), shown in acts of mercy and justice [3]
  • doing all things with honesty and integrity [4]
  • having a Christ-like humility and servant-heartedness in all things [5], cognizant of the kindness, patience, love and mercy that have first been shown us in the gospel [6]
  • doing all things to the best of your ability so as to be as productive as possible [7]

Therefore, if ‘making it’ can only be defined as having worldly success, then we must reject this myth that ‘making it’ is the only good outcome of a music degree.

Redefining 'making it''

However, surely a better way would be to redefine our understanding of ‘making it.’ Not only is the biblical understanding of what constitutes ‘good’, as outlined above, a sufficient reason for doing so, but so too would be a healthy dollop of common sense.

By which I mean: Statistics and indeed the experience of all of us agree on the plain and simple fact (that hardly needs stating) that the vast majority of people in every walk of life do not make it to the very top of that profession, and that that does not render them all failures and having wasted their lives.

The vast majority of bankers are not millionaires. Many of them of solid jobs and earn a good living – but they are not at the top of the banking profession, they will receive no awards or knighthoods for their services to banking, and very few people, even in the world of banking, know who they are. But we’d hardly call them failures.

So why would we do the same with music?? Surely we must redefine ‘making it’ in music to mean having a career in music, however high-profile or low-profile, in which we are content.

In parts 3-7, we will explore this redefinition in more detail, focussing on the ideas of mediocrity, the dignity of work, calling, contentment, and money.


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