How To Really Get Ahead In Life.
Is ambition good or bad? Desirable or something to avoid at all costs? Is it okay to want to get ahead in life or is the spiritual person suppose to be free from all that stuff and just passively accept whatever life brings?
James and John were brothers and their mother wanted the best for her boys. Since Jesus could do fantastic things, they hit upon the scheme for personal advancement that folks still try today: “Teacher,” (if you want something from someone you always begin by making sure they know how much you respect them) they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Who wouldn’t want that! We could call this the genie-view of Jesus; the one where we lock onto the main reason for his power is to make life easier for us. We don’t stop to consider what he might want from us, our only concern is what he will do for us. Even without knowing the outcome, we can tell that this question is heading into troubled waters simply because it distorts the mission and purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth, replacing it with “what’s in it for me?”
Amazingly, Jesus didn’t directly call them on their motive. The other disciples made up for his omission by their reaction to James and John. Jesus didn’t call them for their naked ambition at all. Is it possible that he considered their ambition to be misguided yet healthy? Instead of correction, we find he sidestepped their request to be the top-dogs in his kingdom, and without censure he simply presented them with his counter-intuitive method for fulfilling ambitions in the kingdom of Heaven: self-sacrifice, giving the control of our lives to God, even to the ultimate limitation of our death, with true significance in his kingdom being awarded to those whose ambition is to serve others. James and John began with their focus on self-promotion, but Jesus showed them the better way: to focus on the advancement of others first. Guess he figured that with their focus on serving others would derail their selfish ambition. (You can read more about it in Mark 10.) Their sense of ambition would fuel their vision and drive them into service with distinction so long as it was freed from the pollution of personal gain. The best way to weed out the incessant demands of personal gain was by teaching them to put others first – they had no time to focus on themselves if they were busy finding ways to promote others.
Apparently it is not ambition that is bad, it is the self-promotion that corrupts it. It’s good to want to have impact and make our lives count. Our ambition will drive us to push past our limits and to attempt things we considered beyond our reach.
When we focus on the goal of advancing the kingdom of God we can do amazing things.
Posted on July 9, 2012, in Active faith, Leadership, Relationships, vision and tagged ambition, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Mark 10, motives, personal gain, Religion and Spirituality, self-promotion, serving God. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.