Ill-weav'd Ambition - Radio Talk 5
March 17, 2020
Ambition is condoned, acquiesced-in, encouraged, felt to be laudable and mandatory; all of these outlooks typify our societies.
Few people consider ambition to be an unwarranted, unwarrantable, choice for a life
Ambition for most of us is usually connected with our work; either as our walk of life as a professional person; or as a ladder up which to climb over the years
Employers generally encourage ambition and ambitious people in their workplaces; because employers prefer to use those people who have most drive to succeed
An employer sees that to reward such people helps to 'bring them onside', helps in convincing them to become committed to the company - and so grows the business
It's a pact then; a mutual understanding; a version of 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'. I will be loyal and work hard for you, and you will promote me and pay me well
So it's a utility thing when looked at from this angle – a working agreement, unspoken, unwritten, but mutually understood.
Because it is unwritten, unspoken, it is a bond, an assurance able to be broken more easily than would be a legally binding signed agreement.
Were an employee to get an 'offer she can't refuse' from a rival competitor company, most often she would take that offer; ..
...and her leaving employer might even shrug her shoulders and say 'fair play'.
Or else the employer might find a person whom he believes is better for the company than the employee is. And so the employer hires the person 'over the head of' the employee.
We see this kind of contentedness to allow a betrayal of unspoken agreements played out at its most extreme in soccer’s Premier Leagues
A player might be lauded and adored by fans; might profess with great earnest that he is 150% behind his club, and...
The very next day it is announced between clubs that the same player is being transferred; usually for a phenomenal fee
The player transfers to a new club and the next day and in great earnest he professes 150% devotion and commitment to his new club
The fans at his old club let him go in their affections. The fans at the new club swear a diehard allegiance to him.
This Premier League example is the logical outcome that has to happen in a society like ours, when it allows and encourages ambition the way it does.
Our relationships and our words of honour and our loyalties - and it sometimes seems our inner selves - all become up for barter – to the highest bidder offering the best deal
Now ambition is not among the seven deadly sins. But let's reel them off anyway and then take a closer look at ambition; see how it might fit in here?
- sloth, and
Now let's look at that Premier League example and see what of these seven, if any, might reasonably be said to be involved here.
And we do well to keep in mind that this Premier League example is merely the normal siltation concerning a person 'making their career' - but taken to its logical extremes
Well I believe 'greed' fits in pretty well here. The normal mantra for the ambitious person is generally 'I want more and better' from my life. Money, status, power, fame, adoration.
Our Lord told us that 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof' He also recommended that we,
“take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) ... ….for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” And isn't this recommendation of Jesus the Christ to us not one of the most important of his teachings to be found in any of the gospels?
“Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things...” Seek first His Kingdom and “ all these things shall be added unto you.”
This is a Promise. It is a Promise made by that Person whose word we cannot doubt. We know he will fulfil it to us. As The Lord Jesus says elsewhere:
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom...
….For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
It appears to me to be very, very, clear here that we are called by Jesus to give first and foremost. He exhorts us thus “freely ye have received, freely give”.
And in the Book of Acts we have the cautionary examples of Simon the Sorcerer and Ananias and his wife, both of which guide us as to what The Lord means about us giving
Simon the Sorcerer is so spiritually blind as to ask Simon Peter to endow him with The Holy Spirit in exchange for a payment of money.
Ananias and his wife sell a plot of land and keep back some part of the money proceeds raised. They donate a reduced sum to the Apostles, into their fund held in common
Both Simon the Sorcerer and Ananias and his wife are rebuked; by the Apostles, and by God himself, because of their greater attachment to money than to Christ's holy love.
Fidelity, faithfulness, is not to be bought and sold in the marketplace; and true fidelity, true faithfulness is not bought and sold.. and cannot be
The very act of buying such a thing stamps that would-be fidelity and faithfulness as being bogus and not the real thing.
Yet in the Premier League one might say that such a deal is not, has nothing to do with, religion nor is it concerned with Christ and his commandments.
Again we have Jesus' guidance to us as we read it in his Parable of the Servants:
“Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord..”
The Premier League might well be considered one of these “small things” in which one ought to show faith and fidelity, so as for one to be trustworthy for “many things”.
And so greed is a corrosive substance upon spiritual things to us; what we would do for money tells us whom we are; and what our moral compass is.
And greed is a part of ambition, as ambition is generally understood in our daily lives. We are selling our loyalty, fidelity, just as Simon the Sorcerer felt he could buy spirit with money.
Envy – is this not part of ambition? An ambitious man or woman prefers themselves; puts themselves forward before others; even if only in their mental outlooks.
In competition with other ambitious persons there is often-usually-jealousies, backbitings, foul play, calling of names, libels and slanders; because only one person can be appointed
The plum job up for offer goes to just one candidate; the remainder, in a conspiracy of thieves, will often breathe horrid deprecations in private upon that successful candidate
And this is because their lust and covetousness act upon their intemperate emotions and wills. Covetousness because they wanted that job so badly and it has gone to another
Lust because they treasured up in their hearts in anticipation that they were the man or woman for it; and they desired the power, money and preferment from the plum job
And so envy gives rise to wrath-so that all these five of seven deadly sins have been nailed as being part and parcel of everyday ambition. And they arise because of...
Pride – the greatest and the primal sin which Satan incubated in his spirit; in spite of him being the first among the created angels in Heaven.
He had everything; like the Playboys and the Moguls and the Autocrats of high finance and big business think they have everything. (They only have everything money can buy...
..and set against the things of the Christ and of the Holy Spirit these things the captains of the world possess are dross and are worthless)
Satan truly had everything; but his heart was wrong and told him that he was worth more. More and better – the mantra of the ambitious. And Satan was ambitious because he was..
Proud. Like Pompey the Roman general who was said to have been able “no longer to brook Caesar' – Caesar and Pompey both being insolent haughty men – ambitious...
...so to Satan could not, would not, be happy serving God the Father; Satan's pride urged his will saying he was as good as, if not better than, God the Creator of all things.
And this urging of his will by his pride caused him to rebel and to war against the Almighty - to be defeated and cast with his rebel angels into the sulphurous pit for an eternity.
This sulphurous pit, with its lakes of burning brimstone, is that infernal analogue to the seething passions which arise out of the harbouring of deadly sins...
... which churn and run riot within hearts belonging to ambitious egos . Because the chief of sins, pride, drives this company of sins relentlessly within those hearts.
And here we are getting to the basis, to the bottom, of ambition and the ambitious; and to the nub of the curse of our present times: our license to loose pride of ego.
Those who are successful in worldly terms – the achiever ambitious – are feted, celebrated, lionised, made centrefolds, are reported in the news, are idolised by us
For aren't they those whom most of us aspire to be like, and look up to, and wish we were them, or had their success, or money, or whatever?
Are we not taught to idolise in this way by our fathers and mothers, and in kindergarten and all our adult lives as the daily run of things?
Are not these persons then petty Satans and we the petty rebel angels – were we to consider ourselves as if before the face of Christ?
Our lusts, greeds, avarices, envies, wraths, are all apparent - and in the heroes we idolise these goads are allowed freer rein than in petty me and you.
Their worldly status and power free them up to be eaten inside by appetites they cannot quell; which they mistake for the essential things of life
And their pride always is at the epicentre of this wild intemperance in them. They not only desire more and better day after day, but feel they have a undeniable right to it.
Their ambitions have been fulfilled – but never enough for this type of person – and so they hold it firmly as true that they are better than the common herd
The tremendous size of their egos are well documented – and their haughtiness goes with their reputations before them.
And we, the little people, who bicker and thrash about for preferment at our workplace, or in the local venues – we are allowing ourselves to be made blasphemously in this image
But there remain we who are Christians – and our calling is to give – and not to expect a return...
.. to give even our coats if asked for them – and so to set aside the self and the desires of the self
Ours is to be meek and to show humility – to be kind and charitable to all-comers – to do what we can to follow the pattern of life that our Lord has left to us as his best gift on earth.
Ambition has no place here. Fasting and prayer are the very antithesis of ambition and pride. We are glad to be called upon to be servants of all; and to love one another
A Prayer to end with:
“Lord, make me new; each day more like you; let me forego wanting more and better for myself, so as to allow you to give me enough, and of what I really need instead. Show to me how the pomp and pride of the world is baseless; so that like you in the wilderness I may ask for strength to repel temptations. Send me you peace, and give me grace enough to be your faithful witness all the days of my life; remaking me day upon day more nearly into your holy image. I ask these things for all people to be our mutual joy and fulfilment, to be granted in the course of that coming Kingdom whose time you have appointed.