Monday, July 19, 2010

Ambition: Virtue or Vice?

Rescuing AmbitionJust finished Dave Harvey's new book,  Rescuing Ambition. Ambition is a word freighted with negative connotations. It was the downfall of Satan, Adam, King Saul, Judas, and many other biblical characters. We usually put it in the same bucket with pride, lust, selfishness, etc. However, Harvey makes the point that God created us to be ambitious, but our ambition was to be for his glory. Sin twisted and perverted this noble virtue into something exceedingly ugly, selfish, and unattractive.

Selfish ambition is responsible for most church splits, many failed marriages, and human conflict. The point of Harvey's book is that, for Christians at least, it doesn't have to be this way. The first three chapters examine ambition through the lens of creation, fall, and redemption. Chapters four through eleven dissect how the Holy Spirit works in the life of each believer to transform our ambition from something inherently selfish and evil into a humble, unselfish, virtue that labors hard for the glory of God and the success of the local church.

I recommend this book. I wish every Christian would read it, especially aspiring leaders. Unselfish ambition is desperately needed in each local congregation. I think you will find Rescuing Ambition a great aid to that end.

Whether you have read this book or not, give us your thoughts on ambition. 


  1. In John 2:17, after Jesus' first cleansing of the temple, it says, "His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'" I would imagine this is another description of ambition, but without the negative connotations. Another passage that might cause the word ambition to come to mind is this: "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). Another passage that comes to mind is Col 1:29 where it says, "For this [that I may present everyone mature in Christ, v. 28] I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." It would seem that a growing apprehension of the majesty and riches of God's grace and His purpose to bring glory to His name would result in a growing zeal and diligence that could be described as ambition.

  2. Perhaps those who are unselfishly ambitious are just "unrecognized" in the church - exactly where they choose to serve is in a place where "their labor/works are not esteemed by men."

    Or, those who are radically zealous for God's kingdom w/ unselfish ambition are viewed as "strange" and are heavily persecuted by other "brothers" for their strong stand against worldly things. Those who are diligent and obedient are frequently lumped into the category of "self-righteous" though their heart truly desires to pursue GOD with a life marked by obedience to submit to the truth.

  3. Desiring God blogged today about Dave Harvey and his book Ambition. There are several video interviews of Dave on this topic.