Jan 5, 2012

C.S. Lewis on Success (The Difference Between Good and Bad Ambition)

One of the pervasive problems of American culture is the relentless pursuit of success, which is

spawned by selfish ambition. Interestingly, one seldom hears anything about ambition in the
church today. Indeed, it is regarded as an American virtue, along with motherhood and apple
pie. However, the Bible addresses it differently. In Philippians 1:17 and James 3:14,16, such
ambition is described by the same Greek word that Aristotle employed to describe one who
sought political office by unfair means.Of course, not all ambition is bad. C. S. Lewis helps us distinguish good ambition from bad:

Ambition! We must be careful what we mean by it. If it means the desire to get ahead
of other people – which is what I think it does mean – then it is bad. If it means
simply wanting to do a thing well, then it is good. It isn’t wrong for an actor to want
to act his part as well as it can possibly be acted, but the wish to have his name in
bigger type than the other actors is a bad one.