Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
I fear that we have sanctified things that were never meant to be holy. Within the body of Christ do we even question ambition? Being upwardly mobile in ministry is an almost universal expectation and gets, at the very least, a complete pass and generally a wholehearted endorsement by the Christian community.
If ambition is selfish, then it is unholy. And I ask myself again, when is my ambition not self centered?
In the past number of months, coincident with reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy myself, I've seen the following quote of his highlighted on a number of blogs:
Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition.
Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be.
A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth;
this has been exactly reversed.
The interesting thing is that the emphasis of all the articles using the quote has been on the travesty of Christendom becoming modest about the truth. Fair enough. But Chesterton is also making the point that the Apostle Paul made: modesty and humility are to be what govern us, not ambition. We now read Chesterton's quote and don't even see this emphasis because self-promotion and the self-evident goodness of moving up in the world are unquestioned givens in our minds.
I remember filling out a form for a Christian leadership seminar I was asked to attend. One of the first questions on the form was "What is your career goal?" This really threw me. Sanctifying the unholy?
As one who fails constantly and battles my pride as much as the next guy, I still saw my life as one of following Jesus down a path of His choosing, not mine. After scratching my head for a while, I finally put down my 'career goal' on the form as,
To hear 'well done' from my Master.
I wonder how much more powerful our ministries would be should modesty settle back on the organ of ambition and we refused to do its bidding any longer.