If you are pursuing a college education, or if you have graduated from college in the past, it is because you set education as a goal in your life. Researching schools, applying to programs, and attending classes aren’t things that someone just floats into; it requires some degree of drive and focus on an objective. In a word, it requires ambition.
Since ambition is something common to most of us, to one degree or another, it is important to understand ambition from a biblical perspective. Is ambition a good thing? How can we be ambitious in a way that pleases God?
Sometimes, the word “ambition” can have negative overtones in our world. When we call somebody “ambitious,” we sometimes mean to imply other unspoken words, like “unscrupulous” or “conniving.” There’s something about our idea of ambition that makes us suspicious of people who have it.
The preacher Thomas Brooks wrote, “Ambition is a gilded misery, a secret poison, a hidden plague, the engineer of deceit, the mother of hypocrisy, the parent of envy, the original of vices, the moth of holiness, the blinder of hearts, turning medicines into maladies and remedies into diseases.”
Certainly, blind ambition has caused many people to sell their souls, compromise their convictions, violate their beliefs, sacrifice their character, and use everybody in their way. Ambition is often associated with pride, evil aggression, and self-centeredness. We connect the word with driven people who are utterly insensitive to everyone around them. Ambition can leave carnage in its wake among family and friends, and it very often leaves principles lying in the dust.
This understanding of ambition is backed up by the word’s history. “Ambition” comes from the Latin word ambire, which means “both.” The Latin word implied that something or someone was going in two directions at once—that they were duplicitous or double-minded. It applied to the person who had no convictions or integrity, who would pretend to do one thing while really doing another.
This Latin word was commonly used to describe Roman politicians, who would take any side they needed to in order to get votes. In fact, the word came to be associated with the act of campaigning for promotion. In America, we know perfectly well what this sort of ambire looks like in our own politics.
Ambitious people want power. They want position. They want social visibility. They want popularity. They want approval. They want money. They want recognition. They want authority. And they will face whatever way they need to in order to get it.
There was a missionary leader named Stephen Neill who wrote this:
I am inclined to think that ambition in any ordinary sense of the term is nearly always sinful in ordinary men. I am certain that in the Christian it is always sinful, and that it is most inexcusable of all in the ordained minister. (“Address to Ordinands,” The Record, 28 March 1947, p. 161)
So, at least according to the Latin definition, ambition is sinful. In fact, it was because of this sort of sinful ambition that Jesus came into the world. Because we sinners wanted to be great, Christ became small. Because we would not stoop, He stooped. Because we wanted to rule, He came to serve. There is a sense in which Christ came into the world to rescue us from our damning ambition.
The prophet Jeremiah spoke to this issue in very straightforward terms in Jeremiah 45:5: “But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them.”
That may go against the grain of how college students, college graduates, and other goal-oriented people are inclined to think. Does Jeremiah mean that we should never have high goals? Is there no such thing as godly ambition?
Next time we will look to the words of the apostle Paul and discover the sort of ambition that pleases the Lord.
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-analytics||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Analytics".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-functional||11 months||The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-necessary||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookies is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Necessary".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-others||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Other.|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-performance||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Performance".|