Summary: Explores what the Bible teaches about ambition.
An excellent illustration of the pitfalls of ambition comes from Shakespeare’s classic work Macbeth. Macbeth probably expected to have ambition delivered in a quite different way then it was. He found the answers to his quest from three witches whose prophesy foretold who the next king of Scotland would be, Macbeth. Perhaps you remember the first stanza of the witches’ recipe for reckless ambition. “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. In the cauldron boil and bake, eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, adder’s fork and blind worm’s sting, lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, for a charm of powerful trouble, like a hell-broth boil and bubble.” That charm of powerful trouble has began to bubble over in Macbeth’s heart as his desire for the crown in Scotland grows. Greed, deceit and reckless ambition begin to transform his life and start his life spiraling out of control. He gains the desires of his heart but forfeits his soul. The Lady Macbeth forfeits hers as well as the weight of guilt drives her to madness and suicide. In the end Macbeth gives a bitter repose that denounces life and the vanity of ambition. “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” This Shakespearean tragedy offers an excellent illustration of twisted ethics behind ruthless ambition. It only concerns itself with results, achievement, and power. Nothing else matters. Does this mean that being motivated to do a job well is wrong? No. The Scriptures tell us numerous times to be steadfast and immovable in our pursuit of excellence. However the goal of excellence can easily become a lust for accomplishment if driven by the sin of pride. Let’s discover what we can learn from are passage in regard to ambition.
I. Taking a glimpse and the dark side of ambition.
A. Ambition according to Webster.
1. According to Webster ambition is an ardent desire for rank, fame or power, a strong desire for advancement.
2. The dark side ambition is everything being focused on self.
3. We asks how will it affect me and how will I benefit?
B. The workings of ambition according to Solomon.
1. Solomon’s portrait of the workings of ambition is sharply different from the picture the world tries to paint.
2. Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor. (Proverbs 18:12)
3. A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
4. A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live. (Proverbs 15:27)
5. It’s not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor. (Proverbs 25:27)
II. Jesus’ response to ambition.
A. A note worthy setting for this event involving the ambitious sons of Zebedee.
1. Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem where soon the crowds will be heaping palm branches and praises before Him.
2. Soon after that gentle crowd will turn in to an angry mob shouting, “Crucify Him!”
3. His thoughts are on humbling Himself to the point of death on a cross, about His victorious resurrection and about His beloved disciples.
4. Jesus pulls the twelve aside and tells them in graphic detail of the events that are about to transpire.
5. However James and John are preoccupied with the thoughts of the future advancement of their own power and glory.
B. The sons of Zebedee working to position themselves for power.
1. Jesus draws out the ambition behind their request by asking an open ended question.
2. They want to have a position of influence higher than any of the other disciples when Jesus establishes His throne in Jerusalem.
3. Jesus is not going to the city to rule from a throne, but from a cross.
4. There is no doubt James and John was totally clueless about what they asking when they assure Jesus they can handle anything He would go through.
5. Being promoted to a place of authority in God’s kingdom is not a matter of just knowing the right people.
6. When the other disciples figured out what James and John was asking they began to be greatly irritated.
7. All the disciples had envisioned themselves reining with Christ, but James and John were the first to be brazen enough to make the request.
C. The disciples meeting Jesus at the crossroad of ambition.
1. Jesus reminds them of the chain of command that exists in the rank and file of everyday life.
2. However, Jesus has a different system in mind for His followers.