Man was given an objective at the time of creation. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15 NIV).
Creativity and accomplishment are part of our DNA, we are designed to build, create and do. Our creativity comes from being in the image of God, we imitate the creator by creating.
Like every good gift, our drive to create and accomplish has been warped by sin. Left unchecked, that creative power can turn to evil ends. Therefore some in Christendom have condemned ambition as sin. Ambition can lead to sin but is not inherently sinful.
The problem is not that we want to accomplish or achieve, the problem is what we want to accomplish and why. The goal and the motivation for the accomplishment make all the difference.
It should be kept in mind that the “to work it and take care of it” command was given before the fall of man. Therefore the drive for doing and accomplishment was in humans before sin entered into the world. From this I conclude that doing and accomplishment are inherently good.
What is the difference before and after the fall? The difference lies in the motivation and the goal. Prior to the fall, the motivation would be as an act of worship and a deepening of the face-to-face relationship with God.
After the fall, the motivation had the potential to be quite different. We see an example of this in Genesis 11:1-9, where the story of the Tower of Babel is recorded. This passage records the motivation for building the tower as self-glorification rather than worship of God. They said to one another, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
It is impossible to over emphasize the two great commands as recorded in Matthew 22:37-40. First, we are to love God and then love our neighbor. The commands are all about relationship. We are to be in harmony with God and our fellow man. Jesus thought that the whole Judeo / Christian ethic depends upon these two commands.
The problem with ambition is when it is used in violation of the two great commands. If my ambition is to make a name for myself, then I am not fulfilling the first. I cannot be loving God as he deserves if I am practicing self-worship. If I am abusing my coworker, or neighbor to accomplish my goal, I am in violation of the second. Ambition that does not care for the well being of others will lead to abuse and mistreatment.
But, ambition that is in obedience to the two great commands is a very good thing. At right is a still from the movie Amazing Grace, depicting William Wilberforce in Parliament. He had the ambition of seeing slavery abolished. This abolition was pursued as an act of love and obedience to God and as a means of loving his neighbor as himself. The task was made more difficult by the culture of the day which did not see the imago dei, the image of God, in those of African descent. Yet Wilberforce thought it his duty, and therefore it became his ambition, to abolish this abhorrent practice.
The point of this post is that we should not hold back ambition and the desire for achievement. We should focus it on the right things and have the right motivation.
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, that everything we do should be for the glory of God. Dream big things, do big things, but do them for God’s glory and not your own.
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