Ambition – 1. A strong desire or drive to succeed or to achieve something; 2. The object of such desire.

Synonym: aspiration – means effort toward improvement of one’s position.  Ambition suggests desire to get ahead, to become famous or rich; to achieve power, sometimes with the implication of offensive aggression, but often with completely neutral moral connotation.  Aspiration implies a reaching beyond what is usual; it has almost no derogatory moral connotation. (Collier’s Dictionary)

Ambition – eagerness to attain success, honor, power, fame, etc.; the object of a person’s aspirations.

Synonym: aspiration, desire, eagerness, end, goal, incentive. (New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus)

Ambition – 1a: an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; b: desire to achieve a particular end; 2: the object of ambition.

Synonym: ASPIRATION shared meaning element: a strong desire for advancement or success.  Aspire – to seek to attain or accomplish a particular goal. (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary)

Wrong Ambition

Num. 16:1-10          What was Korah and his followers complaint against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:3)?

Do you ever complain about those whom the Lord places in authority over you?

What did Moses say about Korah and the other Levites that joined him in the rebellion against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16:8-10)?

Are you content with the privileges and position God has given you?

Or, are you self-centeredly ambitious for more, and why?

Are you self-centeredly ambitious to be a leader over others, and why?

How did God feel about Korah and his company’s selfish ambition (Num. 16:21)?

What were the consequences (Num. 16:31-32, 35)?

How does this make you feel, and why?

What reason does Korah and his company give for their rebellion against Moses and Aaron’s authority (Num. 16:3)?

Does this sound somewhat spiritual?

Do you ever try to rationalize your selfish ambition by trying to cloak it in some spiritual sounding reason (e.g., the reason I’m going to college is so that I can get a higher paying job and thus be able to give more money to missions)?


1 Ki. 1:5, 7, 9; 2:17, 22, 24-25          For what was Adonijah ambitious and how did he proceed to attain it (1 Ki. 1:5)?

Was he right in this, and why (1 Ki. 1:13, 29-30)?

What happened to Adonijah as a result (1 Ki. 2:22-25)?

In selfish ambition, do you ever try to undermine rightful, God-ordained authority by recruiting people to side with you so you can usurp a leadership position, and why?


Judg. 9:1-5          What was Abimelech ambitious for, and what did he do that showed he was selfishly ambitious?

What did Abimelech’s selfish ambition for power lead him to do (Judg. 9:4-5)?

Have you thought about the fact that selfish ambition can lead to other sins like murder?

What happened to Abimelech (Judg. 9:22-24, 53-56)?

Are you ever self-centeredly ambitious for power, and why?


Psa. 49:11-12, 16-20          What is said about the man in his pomp (splendor – great honor, fame, riches, etc.) who trusts in and boasts about his riches (Psa. 49:6)?

Since this is the case, why do you think people are selfishly ambitious for the splendor of this world – riches, fame, honor, etc.?

Are you ambitious for wealth, and why?


Eccles. 1:12 – 2:11           Does it seem like Solomon was selfishly ambitious (Eccles. 1:13, 17; 2:1, 4-9)?

If so, for what was he ambitious?

Of all that Solomon sought to do, how much of it did he actually accomplish (Eccles. 2:10)?

Even though Solomon accomplished all that he sought after, how did he feel about it?

Why do you think people are self-centeredly ambitious for such things as worldly wisdom, carnal pleasures, big mansions, expensive cars, money, high position, and illicit sex if they do not bring any enduring satisfaction or have eternal value?

Are you striving after any of the things Solomon did (worldly wisdom, pleasures, riches, enlarged works, a great name for yourself, power, position, multiple sexual relationships, etc.), and why?

How does realizing that none of those things can ultimately satisfy affect you?

What do you plan to do about it, and why?


Jer. 45:1-5            What question did God ask (through the prophet Jeremiah) of Baruch in Jer. 45:5?

What did God tell Baruch not to do?

Do you think that a lack of fulfilled selfish ambition could have been a reason why Baruch was depressed?

If you are ever depressed, could it be because you couldn’t achieve your selfish ambitions?

Are you seeking great things for yourself (e.g., a promotion to a higher position at your job, a college degree, lots of money, a fancy house, car, or possessions; popularity through sports, music, drama, witty character, talents, skills, or abilities) and why?

What is wrong with seeking great things for yourself?

What should we be seeking instead (see 1 Cor. 10:31)?


Matt. 4:8-9          What did Satan offer Jesus?

Does that seem appealing to you?

Are you seeking such things or even just a little portion of this world and its glory, and why?


Matt. 23:5-12          What did Jesus say was the reason for all that the scribes and Pharisees did (Matt. 23:5)?

Do you practice your religion to be noticed by others, and why?

Do you ever do good deeds in order not to look bad and/or so that you’ll be recognized and praised by others?

Why do you evangelize?

Is it out of a sense of duty?          Is it to impress your Christian friends?

Do you ever share your faith so that you can tell other Christians about it and, therefore, appear more spiritual?

Do you go to church or Bible study so that people will notice and think you are really spiritual?

Why do you read your Bible?          Is it to impress others with your Bible knowledge or that you read your Bible?

What did Jesus say the scribes and Pharisees loved/craved (Matt. 23:7)?

Do you love (i.e., have a self-centered hunger for) any of these things (i.e., prominence of various kinds), and why?

What did Jesus warn against (Matt. 23:8-10)?

[The context, Matt. 23:2-6, shows that what is condemned is not literally being called or calling someone these titles if they are true of the person, but rather pridefully and self-centeredly wanting to be called by these titles.  That this is the case can be seen by the following.  Jesus labels certain of His disciples as “leaders” (Lk. 22:26), and other spiritually-gifted Christians as “teachers” (Eph. 4:11).  Peter refers to himself and others as “elders” (1 Pet. 5:1). Paul refers to himself as “father” of the Corinthian Christians (1 Cor. 4:1).  The author of Hebrews refers to certain spiritual authorities as “leaders” (Heb. 13:17, 24).].

What will happen to those who exalt themselves (Matt. 23:12)?

How does this affect you?


Mk. 9:33-35; Lk. 9:46          What were the disciples discussing amongst each other?

Do you want to be looked up to as great (in position, authority, or spirituality) in the eyes of others, and why?


Mk. 10:35-45          What did James and John request of Jesus?

Why do you think they made this request?

What did Jesus say would make a person great in His kingdom (Mk. 10:43-44)?

Does it seem like it is wrong or right for a Christian to aspire to greatness?

If ever right, when would it be right?

What makes the difference?


Jn. 5:44          Why weren’t certain people able to believe in Jesus as the Savior?

Did you ever realize that selfish ambition could be a hindrance to one’s faith in God?

Why do you think this is?


Acts 8:18-19          What did Simon want and even offer money for?

Why do you think he wanted this (Acts 8:9-11)?

Do you think the reason why some religious people seek the more showy spiritual gifts (like tongues, prophecy, and healings, which have all ended by the way)or claim to practice such gifts is to get attention from others?

Have you ever sought to be great or famous, and why?


Rom. 2:7-8          What don’t those who are selfishly ambitious do?

What can those who are selfishly ambitious expect from God?

Why do you think God hates selfish ambition?

How does knowing this affect you, and why?


Phil. 1:17          Why were some people preaching the gospel?

Isn’t preaching the gospel a good thing?

So does it matter what a person’s motives are as long as he or she is preaching the gospel, and why (Prov. 16:2; 1 Cor. 4:5)?

Have you ever preached the gospel because of selfish ambition (e.g., you wanted to be able to tell others about your witnessing experiences so they would respect and/or praise you)?

If you have wrong motives for witnessing, what should you do?

What should your motives be, and what can you do to make sure you have the right motives?


1 Tim. 6:7-10       Since we can’t take anything out of the world when we die, does it make any sense to spend one’s whole life accumulating a mass of wealth?

Why do you think people do it?

What are some of the consequences of being ambitious for wealth?

What was Timothy told to pursue instead (1 Tim. 6:11)?

Are you pursuing these things, and if so, how?


Jas. 3:14-16          If a person boasts/exults in an attitude of selfish ambition, what would he be doing (Jas. 3:14)?

[By thinking or claiming that you are wise (Jas. 3:13) and yet at the same time having such an attitude, you are going against what the Bible says makes a person truly wise.  The Bible, God’s Word, is truth and tells us the true way to live.  To live contrary to how God wants us to live through selfish ambition is to lie against the truth of God’s Word.].

What is the source of this so-called wisdom (i.e., selfish ambition), Jas. 3:15?

What often accompanies selfish ambition (Jas. 3:16)?

Why do you think this is so?

When you are debating someone about God’s Word, do you do so with an attitude of selfish ambition (i.e., trying to prove them wrong and yourself right out of pride in order to promote yourself over others)?

Or, do you share the truth with others because you love them and are genuinely concerned for their best interests?

Do you think there is “any” expression of self-promotion in your life?

If you are a teacher of God’s Word, or seek to be a teacher of God’s Word, is it because you want to promote yourself in the eyes of others?

What can you do to guard yourself against selfish ambition?


Jas. 4:13-16          What does James say about the ambitious businessman who leaves God out of his affairs (Jas. 4:14)?

What does James exhort that person to do (Jas. 4:15)?

Do you ever pursue your own ambitions without considering God’s will, or do you consult God to find out what His will is in all that you do?

If it’s the latter, how do you go about doing so?


3 Jn. 1:9          Why didn’t Diotrephes accept John’s instruction?

What other sins did he commit that were motivated by his selfish ambition (3 Jn. 1:10)?

Do you ever have a rebellious attitude toward your spiritual leader?

If so, could it be because of selfish ambition on your part?

Have you ever rejected or ignored advice (and/or instruction) from your spiritual leader because it went against what you wanted to do, even though the advice was biblical advice?


Good Ambition

Ezra 7:10          What had Ezra set his heart to do?

Is your ambition to study God’s Word, apply it to your life by practicing its teachings, and to teach it to others, and why?


Matt. 6:31-33          What are people who want to be in God’s kingdom to seek (strive after)?

And what are they not to seek (Lk. 12:29) as the primary goal of their lives?

[While the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) is connected to Christ’s offer to Israel (Matt. 4:17-23) of His kingdom (it showed how a Jew who is in right relationship with God should conduct his life), its principles have a general application for believers today as they demonstrate the standards of righteousness God demands of His kingdom’s citizens.  Instead of pursuing (as a goal of your life) food, drink, and clothing, we should pursue God’s spiritual rule over our lives (His kingdom) with a lifestyle of always doing right (His righteousness).].

Are you pursuing as the primary goal of your life that which satisfies the body or that which pleases God?

Why, and how?

Some people live from (and for) meal to meal; they live to eat and drink.  Other people live from one shopping spree to the next in order to have more and newer things.  Are you guilty of either, and why?


1 Cor. 10:31          What should be the end purpose for everything a Christian does?

[“do all to the glory of God” – The Christian shouldn’t be concerned with his rights but with the glory/honor of God.  The governing motive of our lives should be to promote the glory or praise of God.].

How would one go about doing this?

How much of what you do is done to glorify (honor) God?


1 Cor. 9:24-25          How are we to run (live the Christian life)?

How could we go about doing this?

Why should this be our goal (1 Cor. 9:25)?                                       [“imperishable” – eternal rewards].


2 Cor. 5:9           What was Paul’s ambition?

Is this your ambition, and why?

If not, what do you need to do to make it your ambition?

Why should this be your ambition (2 Cor. 5:10, 15)?


Gal. 1:10          Who’s favor was Paul seeking, and why?

Is it your ambition to seek God’s favor?          If so, how are you going about it?

Do you water down the gospel or Christian teachings in order to avoid offending people?

If someone asks you “Is everyone who hears the gospel, but does not trust in Christ as Savior going to hell, even if the person was a good Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or lived a good life and did nice things for people?”, how would you answer the question?


Phil. 1:20-21          For what or whom did Paul live?

[“to live is Christ” means that Christ is the essence of his life: to love, obey, serve, glorify, trust and preach Him].

Could you honestly say this is true of you, and why?

What was Paul’s chief aim/purpose/reason and source of meaning for living (Phil. 1:20)?

For what or who are you living, and would someone be able to tell by observing your life?

If you have a job, why are you working?

If you are going to college, why are you going?


Phil. 1:27          What does Paul exhort these Christians to strive for?

[“striving together for the faith of the gospel” – spreading God’s glorious redemptive truth which centers in Jesus Christ and salvation in Him; teaching of the gospel with united effort – W. Hendriksen’s New Testament Commentary – Philippians].

What are you striving for in life, and why?


Phil. 2:2          What are we to be intent on?

[“one purpose” – which is “the cause of Christ and its furtherance, directing their thoughts and endeavor on that one thing.” – J. Muller’s The New International Commentary on the New Testament – Philippians].

Is your purpose/aim in life the furtherance of the cause of Christ (seeking and saving the spiritually lost through evangelism), and why?


1 Thes. 4:11-12          What are Christians to be ambitious to do?

Is it your ambition to lead a quiet life (not be an obnoxious, wild, religious fanatic), attend to your own business (don’t meddle in other people’s affairs that are none of your business), and work with you hands (don’t be lazy and idle, but be productive – Dr. D.E. Hiebert, The Thessalonian Epistles), and why?


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