I find it strange that so many Christians fear ambition. Aspirations to greatness and the drive to be first are often cast as sinful expressions of pride and an ego out of control.
Don’t believe me? Try telling your small group Bible study that you’re praying that one day you will be the greatest (Fill in the blank) and then sit back and watch the response.
I doubt you’ll get much encouragement. My bet is that all of the advice you’ll receive will be about repenting and getting right with God – not about how to get where you want to go.
Yet when Jesus was asked to help someone make it to the top, he didn’t rebuke the desire – he rebuked the standard path people take to get there. He didn’t shame James and John for wanting to be first, he chided them for taking the route of self-service rather than the path of serving others.
You can check out the full story in Matthew 20:20-28. Jesus ends it with this advice: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
So if you sometimes day-dream in the shower about doing something great for God (or someday being known as the best there ever was at something) don’t give up the dream. Just make sure you are taking the right path to get there. The standard path is a dead-end. But the path of service really does lead to the top of the pile. It’s worth taking.
By the way . . . you’ll find that the Apostle Paul offers the same advice in Philippians 2:3-11. It’s also worth a quick read and some thoughtful reflection.