Ethics, Ambition, Apathy and Success
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. 17 He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ 18 And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods 19 and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ 21 Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”
Luke 12:16-21 (NAB)
441 Take note of this. I told a certain noble, learned and dauntless man, on a memorable occasion, that by defending a holy cause, which “good people” were attacking, a high post in his field was at stake: he was going to lose it. With a voice full of human and supernatural seriousness, despising the honours of this earth, he answered: “It is my soul that is at stake.”
A long time ago, before I became a pastor, I remember being driven to do a good job. Not because I always enjoyed it, but because if I did well, if my numbers looked good, I would be promoted. I took my joy in the bonuses and added responsibility.
I eventually burnt out on that, for I found out it was all vanity, a never ending circle of having to do better, for you prior best was now considered the standard, and so yuo were driven to do more, to take one more, to feel more pressure. The temptation to take advantage of the letter of the law was large, again for both ego and the salary need had to be fed.
Then came a point where I didn’t want more responsibility, my ambition waned. I just wanted something I could invest myself in, and do well. But not so well that others would want to add more responsibility to my burdens. I didn’t want to coast, or slacken the work, but neither was I ready to take on more responsibility. In a way, I lost all sense of ambition, struggling with what appeared to be the cost. For I thought ambition would always lead to the end of the man in the parable, who fulfilled his desire, and didn’t get to enjoy it.
In those days, I would read that passage, or the St. Josemaria’s narrative, and use both to deny my sense of ambition, to pacify and counter it. Simply put, you can maintain status quo, and have that negatively impact your soul, and the soul of others. We have to realize that what we do, and our attitudes and drives can be costly. It doesn’t matter the goal, or whether we are driven to success or apathetic. We have more than that binary option, don’t we?
I am struggling with the idea that ambition and ethics, ambition and Christ-likeness may not be as contrary as I think. Nor is it the goal of the ambition that we must question. It is who benefits from seeing our goals acheived. Is it our ego, or our soul, or the souls of others?
Maybe the question isn’t between being apathetic (masqueraded as contentment) or driven. Maybe the question is how we define the “success” that we are driven to achieve?j
Can our ambition, our drive be harnessed to serve people? To care for souls, to be as effective as we can, because we know the love poured into us. To embrace the hardships that ambition requires, not to be praised as martyrs, but because we walk with Christ, and His desires become ours. Can our souls and the souls of others benefit from our “success?”
St Paul wrote, “We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT) )
This is the start to “holy ambition”, this focus on Jesus, on making Jesus known to others, to serving them sacrificially so that we give them the opportunity to find rest and healing in Jesus. To take our thoughts and make them obey, to have them hear and be consistent with the nature of Jesus.
That takes effort, and work, patience and ambition.
The end result is worth it all.
We know Him. Souls are saved…
It’s monday – time to get to work!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1960-1963). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.