The workplace is full of ambitious people and rightly so. The ambitious have a strong desire to succeed. They are results-oriented, energetic, and usually accomplish what they set out to do.
When it comes to getting the job done, ambition always beats the opposite qualities of laziness and apathy. Proverbs 10:4 affirms this when it declares, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
Ambitiously working to get the most out of your career, i.e., being eager, resourceful, and enterprising, is a good thing. But, for all of its goodness, ambition has a downside, and this is what God is warning us about in Philippians 2:3 when he says:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Consider Philippians 2:3 in its two parts.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
In the language of the New Testament, those who pursue selfish ambition are characterized as contentious and quick to cause strife. They demean themselves and abuse others in their pursuit of personal gain.
Also, “vain conceit,” used here in the NIV is rendered “vainglory” in the KJV. It literally means empty glory. The vainglorious achiever is a relentless self-promoter—puffed up and self-absorbed—a taker who burns through people and resources as so much fodder.
We all know someone like this. We don’t embrace their actions and God doesn’t either.
In humility consider others better than yourselves.
This statement seems incompatible with career success, but it really isn’t. God is simply telling you to show respect and deference to others.
To work hard and excel is fine, but to look down on others in the process is not. Exercise humility while delivering an excellent work product; this is always the best course of action. Why? Because God says so.
Being better at your job than someone else does not mean you are morally superior to them. Success in the workplace does not necessarily correlate with success in the whole of life.
If left unchecked, an overly ambitious co-worker can disrupt the synergy of your team or organization. Their “I” will supersede the corporate “We.”
Philippians 2:4-5 speaks to this issue of being ambitious for the success of others when it declares:
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
Sanctify your ambitions by attaching a high value to the success of others, as well as your own. Christ Jesus is your role model and the personification of sanctified ambition. He cares about the interests of others and you should too.