Is ambition bad for Christians?
Dreams and ambitions: We all have ‘em. Success and promotions: We all want ‘em. But don’t these concepts conflict with scripture?
It’s easy for Christians to be skeptical of their own ambitions because we are called to be humble and gentle. The model Jesus lays out in scripture can often seem contradictory to our ambitions to succeed in business. Luke 9:48 says, “Whoever is least among you is the greatest.” But it’s also hard to imagine that the very things that inspire us – our dreams and ambitions – are fighting against us instead of helping. So when does ambition start to become an issue?
Five Indications That Ambition Might Be a Bad Thing
1. You’re consumed with scoring ego points.
Ambition might be a spiritual hazard when all you care about is yourself. This occurs when you care more about what people think about you than what God thinks about you. When your motivation for success is looking smarter, richer, or better than everyone else – look out – a heavy dose of humility is on its way.
2. You view people as a means to an end.
Ambition is a bad thing when you start to view people as a means to an end. Think: slavery. Humanity used to suffer from a tragic mindset that people could be used as disposable tools for achieving success. In the young United States, slavery was a way to quickly gain riches. A genuine passion for success as a nation was taken too far when people became the means to an end.
3. You start to cut corners.
Ambition is a problem when you start to cut corners. Cutting corners indicates that you care more about success than integrity. As this happens you begin to sacrifice your values in exchange for a quicker trip to the top. When you put success ahead of your values, you know that ambition is improperly prioritized.
4. You give less.
Ambition that is tainted by sin is very self serving. You only care about yourself and as a result tend to become very selfish. If there is an inverse proportion between your success and giving, then ambition is a problem for you.
5. You spend less time with God.
Your desire to succeed should never outweigh your desire to spend time with God. Time is a good indication of whether ambition is good or bad in your life. Spend more time building your kingdom than God’s, and it’s a bad thing.
Five Positive Realities of Holy Ambition
1. Ambition doesn’t have to be self serving.
The only people that have a shot at humility are those that succeed. The ones who fail have already been humbled by their failure. Go on, succeed, and then humble yourself by turning it over to the Lord.
2. The more you give, the more you get.
When you use holy ambition for good, God is going to give you more. Matthew 13:12 says that whoever has, more will be given. God will never stop giving you more and more ambition – and thus more opportunities to succeed – as long as you are using it properly. Dream big my friends.
3. God wants to use dreams and ambition for good.
Imagine if no one ever pursued their dreams. We’d live in a pretty dull world. And there would be a lot of slavery. Moses would have never led the Israelites out of Egypt. Lincoln would have never ended slavery. Martin Luther King would have never pursued civil rights justice. God uses your dreams and ambitions for His glory. Embrace that.
4. Ambition creates room for grace.
When your ambition is used for good, you’re not going to cut corners. You’ll have to work hard. Very hard. The road to success is long and difficult. But if you don’t cut corners, and take an ethical path to success, God will give you grace sufficient to navigate those challenges.
5. Ambition builds character.
James 1 says we should consider it pure joy when we face trials of any kind, because trials develop perseverance and perseverance develops faith. Any entrepreneur will tell you that the pursuit of success is bound to bring havoc on your life. You will face trials that you never even imagined. The good news is that ambition will take you through trials that are certain to make you and your faith stronger.
Photo Credit: Bohari Adventures (vis Flickr)