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Pass Me Your Pie
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Is it all right to be aggressively ambitious in our Christianity? To want to be the five-talent guy in Jesus’ Matthew 25 parable? The now-famous prayer of I Chronicles 4:10 has Jabez praying, "O Lord, bless me indeed; enlarge my territory." Give me a bigger portfolio; let me be president, not vice president. Please put me in charge of something exciting.

At the church I pastor, I don’t see too many evidences of unbridled ambition and a lust for power. In fact, I’m reminded of a cartoon where a bunch of parents are screaming at each other. “It’s my turn to run the Kindergarten division.” “Huh uh, you had it last year!” “No, me! Me! Me!” And the caption reads: “Life in a parallel universe.” But is it all right to want five talents and then work hard to turn them into ten? And be glad when the master makes us governor over ten cities?

Thirst for Influence

During the Clinton years, a consultant named Dick Morris quietly gave advice to the beleaguered President and helped him win reelection. Then he went on a power jag; he began to scheme and grab for more turf. He bragged to his friends that he was the “functional White House chief of staff.” He would write speeches and fax them up to the President on Air Force One. Most everybody at the White House couldn’t stand his guts and would fume to one another: “Who is this guy?” If they tried to cut off his access, he would simply establish a “back channel” and get his ideas into the Oval Office that way. His pet brainchild ideas found their way into State of the Union messages, into legislation. He had more power than the White House staff, the Cabinet, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had a thirst for influence, for position. He wanted to rule the world from behind the scenes, using the President as his personal sock puppet.

Is it wrong for us to have this kind of ambition? In this fascinating parable, Jesus talks about a man who is congratulated for showing raw initiative. "Good work! You did your job well. From now on be My partner" (v. 21). It is all right to seek advancement for the purpose of service if it brings glory to God and his kingdom – not to ourselves.

Someone once did a Q & A with C. S. Lewis about ambition and the aggressive seeking of power. Should men and women in uniform seek advancement and promotions? “It’s all right to be a General, but if it is one’s ambition to be a General, then you shouldn’t be one?” “Answer: The mere event of becoming a General isn’t either right or wrong in itself. What matters morally is your attitude toward it. The man may be thinking about winning a war, he may be wanting to be a General because he honestly thinks he has a good plan and is glad of a chance to carry it out. That’s all right. But if he is thinking, ‘What can I get out of the job?’ or ‘How can I get on the front page of the Illustrated News, then it is all wrong. And what we call ‘ambition’ usually means the wish to be more conspicuous or more successful than someone else.”

God invites us to dare great things for the purpose of building up this house we call the Christian church.

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By David Smith. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE ®.

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