Ambition, Wanting More, and…Generosity
I want more.
I want to write a book people buy and read. I want to speak in front of thousands. I want our church to thrive and have greater and greater influence for the Kingdom. I want a marriage that will make Coach and Tammy Taylor look like they barely noticed each other. I want to run faster and swim faster and bike faster – preferably by June 8th. I do not want more kids. But, I do want to be a better parent to the ones I’ve got.
And then there’s Paul over there all holy toga and wise with his, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition…” (Philippians 2:3).
What about just regular ambition? Is that okay? And while I’m asking, how will I tell the difference between the selfish kind and the regular kind?
I’m sure John Crist would say, “Check your heart.”
I’m checking it. The read-out suggests partial Godly ambition and partial vain conceit. Maybe I’ll check again after lunch…
I’m convinced that wanting more is part of the human condition. I’m also convinced it can be good. When we want more, we believe better is possible. When we want more, we work harder and pursue growth. When we want more for someone else and leverage our own influence for their good, now we’re talking.
But when we want more for the sake of ourselves…well, now we’ve got a problem. When we feel jealousy over other people’s accomplishments instead of joy, we’ve ventured into the danger zone.
I’ve been there – not in a Top Gun kinda way.
Here’s what brings me back: Generosity.
You probably thought I was going to say gratitude. And I could have because being grateful and remembering how much we have is a helpful antidote to a lot of our unhealthy wanderings. However, gratitude on its own can leave us in our heads – a dangerous place to dwell. Generosity invites us to put gratitude to work. Generosity asks us to think of someone else. Generosity moves us out of the realm of what we can’t do to what we can do. Generosity shows us we have something to offer – our time, our creativity, our skill, our resources.
After Paul said we should stop doing things out of selfish ambition and vain conceit, he said we should do things out of interest for others. His example: Jesus. Jesus who was God and had all of the things, gave everything up for us.
The more I give, the less I want. But also, the more I give, the more healthy my desires grow.
So yea, there is such a thing as Godly ambition. Let’s give until we get there.