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How Selfish Ambition Can Wreck Your Home

This weekend we’re beginning a series called “Homewreckers,” in which we’re going to look at some of things that corrode our relationships and destroy our homes. For the last several years, about once a year, I have done a series on relationships.

I realize many in our church are not married; some of you hope one day you will be married and some of you don’t. So, our team works really hard to make sure this is beneficial for all of you. Bottom line is, I think if you’re single you’ll get as much out of it as our old married folk, because we’re learning principles about relationships, one form of which is marriage.

We’re going to start this series in somewhat of an unusual place. I’m going to talk for a couple of weeks of how we walk with God in our jobs. Here’s why. For many of you, especially you men, your home life is out of whack because your work life is off kilter as well.

Think about it this way. What is the source of a lot of the stress you bring into your home? WORK. You are dissatisfied at work; money is tight; you’re under a lot of pressure; and you take that out on your family. Also the majority of your adult life is spent at work. To be honest, I think the church has done a patently bad job at teaching people what it means to follow Jesus in the workplace. Sometimes we talk about working for God as if it’s a half-hour of something we’re supposed to do on the weekend when you volunteer to be an usher. Volunteering at the church is important, but that’s kind of like doing the chores around the house. For many of you, you should treat your workplace as your primary avenue for ministry. I’ve often pointed out to you that 37 out of 40 miracles in Acts take place not inside the temple, but out in the market place.  That’s a lot of miracles in the workplace!

So, over the next few weeks I want to teach you a little bit of what it means to be a believer in your workplace. Here’s specifically the subject for this weekend: the role of ambition in your life. Here is a link to the manuscript.

Ambition, on the surface, has really gotten a bad rap in our society. To say that somebody is ambitious, usually has a bad connotation. We think Michael Douglas in Wall Street; ambition means pride, greediness, over-competitiveness. And let me be clear: selfish ambition is definitely wrong. James 3:13-14 says that selfish ambition is the root of all kinds of bad sins – in addition to pride, greediness, over-competitiveness, it also leads to bitter jealousy, strife, and constant dissatisfaction. Jeremiah 45:5 says plainly, “Do you then seek great things for yourself?  Seek them not.”

But there is another kind of ambition that is good and right. It was the kind that led David to expand the borders of Israel; for Solomon, to build the Temple; for Nehemiah, to rebuild the walls; and for Paul, to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Paul even said, “I make it my ambition…” (Romans 15:26). That’s the good kind. And Jesus was driven by an unparalleled ambition. The Gospels say, “Zeal (or, you could translate that ‘ambition,’ for your house has eaten me up”) (John 2:17). And we’re ambitious as a church.  Our goal is to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years all over the world.

Yes, selfish ambition has caused greedy executives to exploit the poor and ruin our economy; selfish ambition has driven some dictators to send nations to war; selfish ambition has made some men and women destroy their families and neglect their children.

But in our reaction to that we don’t need to get rid of all ambition. We need to redeem it. We need to rescue it. We live in a world desperately in need of people who are ambitious for the right things… godly things.

And don’t think, by the way, that if you’re not aggressive, a firstborn, or a natural leader, that you’re not ambitious.  We all have goals, and we’re all ambitious to see them met in our own way.  Some of you want to be married, and so you’re ambitious for that. Some of you strongly desire to have a family. You want your kids to turn out well. You want a comfortable life.

Unless you have no wants, no needs, no desires, you have no ambitions. And if you have no wants, needs, or desires… you’re dead.

I look forward to getting into the message this weekend called “Redeeming Ambition,” from Philippians 4:11-13. I’ll show you what godly ambition looks like, and give you some litmus tests you can take to see if your ambition is godly or selfish. I have learned a lot about this from a book I read last year by Dave Harvey called Rescuing Ambition. I hope you’ll make it part of your summer reading list.

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.