Is it okay to be ambitious?

Ambition is often the desire to be better, bigger and more impressive. It normally focuses on our self.

One of the problems with this is that it enslaves us. We become driven by our goals. We wish away the present, regret the past and always look to the next thing.

Paul lists this ‘selfish ambition’ among the acts of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:20).

But our schools and workplaces consider ambition a virtue. When I was a teacher, my end-of-term reports would describe top-grade pupils as ‘ambitious.’ It was a compliment.

So, selfishness aside, is there a place for good ambition?

A New Ambition

Having been freed by the gospel, we can be ambitious for new, godly goals.

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

This is radically different from our culture’s view of ambition. Be ambitious to get out of the limelight. Be ambitious, not first to work your way up, but just to work hard.

Be ambitious to do this job well.

The Best Ambition

Paul says elsewhere:

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known (Romans 15:20).

We’d do well to keep coming back to the best ambition - to tell people about Jesus.

A promotion at work may mean new opportunities to do this. Success in exams can give new ways to express thankfulness or open the door to gospel opportunities.

Perhaps it’s helpful to allow seasons of ambition that can lead to these opportunities. But we need to tread carefully in this.

At every point we need to ask our self: Is this selfish ambition or gospel ambition? Is my goal to advance God’s kingdom or my own?