The Final Four has been determined. For the next week, it’ll be non-stop news. Everyone will be asking: “Can someone beat Kentucky? Might they be the greatest team of all time? Since Notre Dame came really close, could someone possibly upset them?”
We won’t know the answers to these questions until next Monday night around 11:30 pm (unless there’s overtime!).
But here’s one question I’d like to answer, one that’s regularly asked me by sports enthusiasts who are also people of faith: "Can a Christian be ambitious and competitive?”
It’s a great and difficult question. It’s a great question because a lot of people struggle with it. It’s a difficult one because it’s terribly nuanced.
Here’s what I would say. Yes, a Christian can be competitive and ambitious. There’s a good side to competition. It allows you to see how good you really are. It allows you to notice areas where you can get better. It allows you to learn from losing. Similarly, ambition allows you to press through trials. It can teach perseverance like nothing else.
But here’s the nuanced downside of competition and ambition. They can create pride. Pride is naturally comparative. When you win, you feel superior. You think you’re better than another. You find your identity in not just competing, but beating the competition. This feeling of superiority is the source of Satan’s rebellion. He wasn’t content being a great archangel. He had to be God. Selfish ambition then becomes the desire to spend your life competing and being better than another.
James 3:16 says that where there is selfish ambition, there is every evil thing. Selfish ambition invites practically every demonic agency into a situation.
Did you note that the term James uses is not mere ambition but “selfish ambition.” Ambition isn’t wrong. I’m personally ambitious to be the best minister/preacher/person I can be. I am ambitious to take the gospel to as many places as possible in the world before I die.
But here’s the key: I’m not doing it to be selfishly uplifted in the eyes of others. I’m not doing it to find my identity for living. I’m not doing it for my own personal glory.
Ambition to be the best you can be is not wrong. But to be ambitious solely to be better than others and/or for your own personal glory is destructive.
Therefore, Christians, compete! Do your best. Learn from competition. That’s all good. Just don’t compete so you can feel superior to other people. That’s poison to your eternal soul.
Similarly, be ambitious. Work hard to use all of God’s gifts he’s given you. Just don’t make it selfish ambition. You’ll never give God the glory for anything. That’s also destructive to your eternal soul.
And enjoy the Final Four! Can Kentucky really do it?