Ambition can prompt people to succeed in today’s world. The pursuit of power, glory, or to further a cause fuels a person to wholly invest their time and energy into that goal. Is ambition an appropriate term to help Christians advance God’s kingdom on earth? It all depends upon what is driving the ambition.
Whenever a person exercises ambition to further themselves or their viewpoint, an organization suffers. When this is applied to the church, the results can be disastrous. In his inspired letter to the church in Philippi, the Apostle Paul wrote:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
The original Greek phrase for “selfish ambition” can be translated to describe a person who embarks on a pursuit of political office by unfair means. It means that they will go to great lengths, even if it creates strife, to get what they want. The phrase “vain conceit” describes a person with excessive ambition.
It is true that in the short term, a person may gain political advantage in the church through “selfish ambition,” but danger lurks when the advancement of a viewpoint takes precedent over seeking God’s wisdom… or advancing his kingdom.
A true mark of an authentic faith is humility. A believer in Christ who exhibits humility have already discovered the pointlessness of earthly pursuits or seeking personal gain. Humility is like putting on a new prescription for glasses. It provides a clearer focus on what is most important. This type of vision correction comes from a renewed life in Christ that is quick to confess sins and eagerly receives his forgiveness. Christ’s sacrificial life in us produces the fruit of gentleness that seeks to serve others rather than ourselves.
When the spirit of humility exists within a congregation along with a unity in belief, the individual gifts, talents and opinions are embraced in the interest of others. No members are looked down upon, but looked up to with appreciation.
We can pray:
“Lord, thank you for prompting us to seek to serve others and the interest of your kingdom instead of our own. In this season of rapid change, may we always cling to what is imperishable in your Word and sacrament and let go of what is perishable. Provide within us a spirit of humility that focuses primarily on advancing the church instead of preserving the church according to our own tastes and preferences. May we voice our opinions with love and respect, then readily embrace change if change is needed. Grant us a strong faith and trust in you as the ultimate preserver of your church. When humility reigns in the heart of a church, there is harmony. In your name, we trust. Amen.”