The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
It’s easy to label ambition as destructive when the focus is on our individual gain and success, often at the expense of ignoring our neighbors and our community. But ambition isn’t about our personal goals and gain. It’s not about success. It’s about stewardship.
American culture values a strong, individual work ethic, toward the end goal of worldly success. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps for our own gain. We’ve been told the squeaky wheel gets the oil, so we make sure our desires and goals are made known. We want to do great things because we see the possibilities when vast resources are at our disposal.
But the reality is more like what we read in the book of Matthew. The resources at our disposal do not belong to us. We have been entrusted with these resources for a bigger purpose than simply our own comfort and success.
Jesus reminds us that the bags of gold—skills, opportunities, money, and talents—are not ours. The bags of gold belong to the master, to God. He has distributed those bags of gold to everyone in different measure to care for, to use, and to develop to the best of our ability.
Jesus goes even further to challenge our notions of ambition. The servant who buries the single bag of gold is called “wicked and lazy” while the servant who returns his five bags of gold, plus an additional five, is a “good and faithful servant.” There is nothing spiritual about taking what God has given us, burying it, and doing nothing with it. There is nothing holy about squandering what God has blessed us with. Ambition is the opposite of squandering and wasting what God has entrusted to us.
This is how we should see, approach, and live out ambition. Instead of striving for personal success, my ambition should be evident through faithful stewardship of the gifts God has given me.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What has God entrusted you with to steward for Kingdom purposes? List your skills, the opportunities you’ve had, and your financial giving capacity. How have you been using that bag of gold to serve your own desires rather than stewarding them for God? What changes might you consider making to shift from selfish ambition to one of stewardship?
PRAYER: Lord, you are the giver of all good things, and you invite us into partnership with you. Help me to become a good and faithful servant, striving to use the gifts you have given me so that your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Is ambition positive, neutral, destructive, or fallen but redeemable? Does ambition interfere with Christian witness? What is the difference between being called and being driven? And why does it matter? Does it matter? Western culture values a strong work ethic, and we encourage our children and their children to strive and work toward success. Have we put our focus in the right place? Join us for this High Calling series that we’ve titled simply, Ambition.