Greed vs. ambition: how to know the difference

What is greed?

If you’re considering an online Christian college for your MBA, chances are you contemplate the Biblical issues that surround ambition and its relation to greed. Although the line between ambition and greed can sometimes seem quite thin, mostly because both are goal-driven, there is a clear difference. The distinction is obvious once you think about it in the framework of betterment for self versus betterment for all. Simply put, ambition serves a purpose while greed is self-serving.

Ambition vs. greed: making the distinction.

People who are ambitious strive to achieve goals and they often desire success; however, they are ambitious, not greedy, if their achievements and goals are attained for the greater good and without harming others. For example, if you pursue a higher degree in your field because you have always dreamed of furthering your education, you want to attain a better quality of life for your family and you’d like to be a leader in your industry, you are ambitious. You are working toward goals that not only improve your life but also the lives of others, and you are not hurting anyone on the way. On the other hand, if you register for classes on a whim because you’re bored, or you decide you want a degree because it will make you look good and maybe give you an edge, that is selfish, thoughtless greed.

Should we be ambitious?

Sometimes people, especially Christians, feel confused or guilty about being ambitious. After all, Jesus said the meek and lowly would inherit the earth. If that’s the case, why would we even want to be ambitious? But if we look at Jesus’s life for guidance, we can find ambition there as well. In Matthew 28:19­­–20, he said, “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” In short, he told a few people to change the world — clearly an ambitious and goal-driven act that benefited humanity. So, by striving for goals and caring about others simultaneously, we are staying meek and humble while being ambitious, much like Jesus himself.

Confirm good intentions.

As Thomas Christianson suggests in Relevant Magazine, if you ever feel uncertain about your intentions and you want to confirm you’re being ambitious and not greedy, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What are my goals?
  • By achieving these goals, who do I help?
  • By achieving these goals, who do I hurt?
  • What great things do I want to accomplish in life?

The answers to these questions and the thought process you go through to find resolution should offer clarity.

For further reading, check out this post from Dr. Caleb Chan, Dean, Gainey School of Business at SAU, about “Leading From the Middle.”  

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