Ever since my lower education, there has always been an emphasis on progression up the corporate ladder. The thinking being that all people desire to obtain the maximum amount of money and power available to them in life. This ambitious way of thinking is often quite prevalent in Christian circles. Although perhaps presented differently, Christians almost always emphasize leadership development and Christian prominence in society. Admittedly, this is rarely without good reason.
Often, Christians want positions of prominence because they think of figures, like Billy Graham and George Whitefield, who were able to reach so many unbelievers for Christ. Others might think of more recent figures, like Tim Tebow and Stephen Curry, who are able to so publicly demonstrate their faith before millions and who have the ability as celebrities to connect and hopefully convert other people of prominence in the world. Thus, people feel that they will be able to reach powerful people only by becoming such a person themselves, and the fact that such a life would probably be more pleasant and less difficult than a life with a lower income does not hurt anything either.
Yet this ambition, even with a thoroughly Christ-centered motive, still seems contrary to what we see in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 and all throughout the Bible. Verse 17 states that, “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him.” In my opinion this desire for prominence and power for the kingdom is a mix of a dissatisfaction with the less recognized and less prestigious and a desire to be seen doing great things for the Lord by witnessing to the masses and to the famous.
Interestingly, however, Jesus did not demonstrate such an attitude. Jesus, the perfect, miracle working Son of God, could have easily gone before the great and powerful of the ancient world to bring them the Gospel. At the very least, he could have settled for the wisest and most religious of his own people, the Pharisees, since they were the most morally upright. If we are honest with ourselves, were we in Jesus’ place, we would pride ourselves on converting emperors and great rulers to make the greatest impact for God.
Yet, all throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus dining with tax collectors and prostitutes, healing lepers and beggars, forgiving adulteresses and thieves, and calming the sea for fishermen. Would we be so content working with such a crowd of sinners and simpletons? Conversely, he rebukes those the world considers wise because they felt they did not need his forgiveness. Christ, the Messiah and Holy Son of God, would have, to our modern understanding, not been very ambitious. Perhaps then, it is our modern understanding of ambition that is misdirected.
I say all of this not to suggest that wealthy and powerful believers are at all in the wrong for being wealthy or powerful. On the contrary, God has positioned them uniquely to represent Christ and reach people who might otherwise be unreachable. Additionally, I would not mean to suggest that being a leader for Christ in whatever field you have been placed is wrong. Most of the founding figures in the church were leaders and used their abilities to lead in order to bring many to Christ and establish the church. My point is that we should all be striving to spread the kingdom to those around us in whatever field or position God has placed us without always seeking to be more powerful, recognized, or wealthy. Jesus sought the poor and needy before everyone else. So perhaps, rather than thinking of the few famous souls we could save, we should start to more thoughtfully consider our immediate neighbors and coworkers who need the Gospel just as much. We should be honest with ourselves and examine our motives for wanting a successful and lucrative career: do we want it for ourselves or do we want it for God’s glory?