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When Does Ambition Honor God?

by Joe Carroll

A Harvard Business Review cited a company’s interview process for a new CEO.  When it was narrowed down to the top two candidates, the committee chairman declared, “One is too ambitious, and the other isn’t ambitious enough.”   

I can’t think of any other person who has walked this earth that was more ambitious than Jesus Christ.  Yet, Jesus modeled ambition that was wrapped in such a blend of many godly virtues that honored God through serving others.  How can you tell if your ambition is honoring God in your work?

Unfortunately, the preponderance of ambition exhibited in most workplaces is motivated by selfish pursuits. Self-centered ambition is based on pride, while godly ambition is rooted in humility, love, respect and kindness. 

Jesus was selflessly ambitious in serving others with absolutely

 no expectation of compensation or recognition (Mark 10:45)

From the comparisons below, what do I need to adjust to reflect godly ambition in my work?

Self-Centered (Prideful) Ambition

  • Compare myself with others
  • Criticize or put others down (co-workers, competitors, etc.) to make me look better
  • Try to control or manipulate situations or people for my own recognition or financial gain
  • Be Demanding or obstinate

  • Must prove I’m right
  • Try to impress
  • Pursue personal goals over others
  • When there’s an error or failure seek to “cover my tail”
  • Quick to blame others
  • In conflict become defensive

  • Feel “entitled” to reward and recognition                

Godly (Humble) Ambition

  • Compare myself with Christ’s character
  • Treat others with dignity and respect even when others are not deserving of it
  • Surrender control to God, trusting Him for my reputation, image and compensation
  • Be a constructive problem solver; being forthright and yet willing to compromise with grace
  • Sincerely listen and release the compulsion to prove I’m right
  • Recognize and affirm others achievements
  • Pursue what’s best for all over myself
  • Willing to take responsibility for my part
  • Cover and correct other’s failures with dignity
  • Actively listen for another’s viewpoint and what I need to learn
  • Thankfully receive reward or recognition knowing everything received is a gift from God