What does the Bible say about ambition?


By BibleAsk Team


Ambition is a multifaceted concept that involves a strong desire for success, achievement, or the attainment of goals. In the Bible, various passages address this topic, providing guidance on the nature of healthy and unhealthy ambition, as well as its alignment with God’s will.

Positive Ambition and Diligence

Proverbs 13:4: “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” This verse highlights the positive aspect of ambition when coupled with diligence. It underscores the value of hard work and persistence in achieving one’s goals.

Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” Diligence and thoughtful planning are commended in this verse, suggesting that ambition, when coupled with careful consideration and hard work, can lead to prosperity.

Colossians 3:23: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” This New Testament verse encourages believers to approach their endeavors with zeal and dedication, recognizing that their work ultimately serves a higher purpose.

Seeking God’s Kingdom First

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This foundational verse from the Sermon on the Mount underscores the importance of prioritizing God’s kingdom above personal ambitions. It suggests that aligning one’s goals with God’s will leads to fulfillment.

Guarding Against Selfish Ambition

Philippians 2:3: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” The apostle Paul warns against pursuing goals driven by selfish ambition. Instead, believers are encouraged to adopt a humble and considerate attitude, prioritizing the well-being of others.

James 3:14-16: “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” James emphasizes the destructive nature of self-seeking goals, attributing it to earthly and demonic wisdom. The passage highlights the negative consequences associated with ambitions driven by envy and selfish desires.

Contentment and God’s Will

Philippians 4:11-13: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The apostle Paul, in expressing contentment, acknowledges the ability to thrive in various circumstances through reliance on Christ. This suggests that ambition should be tempered with a content spirit, finding fulfillment in God’s provision rather than external circumstances.

Avoiding Worldly Ambition

1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

John’s admonition urges believers to avoid aligning their ambitions with worldly pursuits. The passage identifies the dangers of worldly desires and underscores the impermanence of such pursuits.

Using Gifts for God’s Glory

1 Peter 4:10-11: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

This passage encourages believers to use their God-given gifts and abilities in service to others, with the ultimate aim of bringing glory to God. Ambition, in this context, is directed toward the edification of the community and the glorification of God.

Learning from the Example of Christ

Philippians 2:5-8: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” This passage emphasizes the humility and selflessness of Christ as an example for believers. Ambitions that align with Christ’s self-sacrificing nature are commendable.


The Bible acknowledges the legitimacy of certain ambitions, especially when they are aligned with God’s will, marked by diligence, and oriented toward serving others. However, the Scriptures consistently caution against selfish ambition, urging believers to prioritize humility, contentment, and a focus on God’s kingdom.

Understanding the biblical perspective on ambition involves recognizing that the heart’s motivation matters. Ambitions that spring from a desire to glorify God, serve others, and fulfill God’s purposes are encouraged, while those rooted in self-centeredness and worldly pursuits are discouraged.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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