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Good and Bad Ambition

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

In my post-college proclivity, I desired nothing more than to start a great idea, grow it, and cash out so I could retire in my twenties.

My first, second, or third ventures didn’t work out and I was now into my thirties…and still no fortune and fame.

Around 2008 is when I started going back to church and gaining a new perspective on everything in life. One mindset shift I began to feel was that my ambition began to shift from selfish desires (fame and fortune) to wanting to help others and feel significance in my work.

My struggle was that I still wanted fame and fortune, but I also wanted to serve others and be in God’s will for my business life.

As Christians, is it possible to be ambitious in our entrepreneurial ventures and still have our self-worth and identity firmly rooted in Jesus Christ?

Tons of self-help books and motivational coaches tell us that ambition is essential to accumulating wealth, fame, and glory for ourselves. The general consensus of entrepreneurship today is that it is the primary means by which we make a name for ourselves in this life and prove to the world that we are important, valuable, and worthy.

Of course, this is nothing new for entrepreneurs. After Adam and Eve, human beings have been using work to make a name for themselves, rather than to glorify God and serve others. Take the Babylonians as an example. In Genesis 11 we read the account of these ancient entrepreneurs discovering the incredible technical innovation of brick-making. With the invention of the brick-making process, the Babylonians could build better homes, roads, and cities—all wonderful things; but driven by pride, the Babylonians’ ambition wasn’t to glorify God through their work.

Genesis 11 reads

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1‭-‬4 NIV

Their ambition was to make a name for themselves. They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). And if there was ever a question as to whether or not our motives matter to the Lord, the rest of the passage provides the answer.

“The Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city”. Genesis 11:8.

Creating a new business is not inherently bad. Our entrepreneurial ventures can and do reveal God’s character and love to serve others. But when we create a business out of a motivation to make a name for ourselves, we are attempting to rob God’s glory that is rightfully His.

In Proverbs we read:

All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord . Proverbs 16:2 NIV

While Scripture makes clear that creating to make a name for yourself constitutes improper ambition, the Bible makes equally clear that ambition can indeed be God-honoring, so long as it flows out of a response to the work Christ did on your behalf on the cross.

As Godpreneurs, this mindset could be the very thought that will turn everything around for us if we truly believe it.

My prayer for Godpreneurs today is that you would re-align your ambitions to be healthy and in the direction of your born-to-do identity – your calling to do God’s will in the marketplace.

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