Climbing the Ladder of Personal Ambition

Ron Geschwendt

READ : Mark 9:33-37

Who of us is not in danger of selfish ambition? Ambition is described as “a desire for rank, fame or power,” but it is also defined as “the will to achieve a particular goal.” Positively, ambition is the opposite of laziness. It helps us get something done. Negatively, ambition is self-centered, often with a desire for public recognition which may or may not be deserved. Thomas Carlyle wrote, “His ruin was that ambition had laid hold of him.”

Jesus asked his disciples about their struggle for first position. They were unwilling to discuss it because they had been trying to determine who was the greatest among them. While rank and status were important to them in Jewish culture, it had no place in the value system of Jesus. Selfish ambition is a seed-bed for greed, anger, interpersonal conflict and lust.

While climbing our ladders of success, we need to listen to the counsel of Jesus “to be a servant of all” (9:35). Contrary to popular opinion, ambition should be tempered by humility, not fueled by aggressive self-elevation.


Heavenly Father, soften my ambition with a humble willingness to serve you and love others. Amen.