The Dark Side of Career Ambition

woman career
Maybe, like me, you’ve felt comparison squeeze the joy out of a moment of accomplishment.

I was scrolling through LinkedIn the other day and an unwelcome feeling started growing in the pit of my stomach. As I scanned the profiles of friends and colleagues, many of whom are self-starters, entrepreneurs and side-hustlers, I wondered if I’d somehow missed the boat. I didn’t start my own company by 25, and I don’t have a side hustle spinning cash while I sleep. In that moment, I let career comparison choke the contentment I’d enjoyed just moments before.

If this recent article is any indication, I think many of you can relate. Regardless of the opportunities, hard work and accomplishments you’ve enjoyed, maybe you feel like your accomplishments don’t quite measure up. As soon as you reach a career goal, you wonder if you’ve set your sights too low. A scroll through social media reveals others who are further along. Maybe, like me, you’ve felt comparison squeeze the joy out of a moment of accomplishment.

It’s a good thing to have and work toward goals. It’s good to cultivate a career that will provide for ourselves and our families and give us a way to glorify God through our work. But I am concerned that social media has allowed unique pressures and temptations to influence how we view the temporal blessing of our callings and careers. We need to maintain the perspective that social media cannot provide.

Jesus’ unexpected career advice

Jesus taught His disciples an important lesson on this very issue when they had their own taste of success. Luke tells the story of a time early in Christ’s ministry when He appointed 72 to go “into every town where he himself was about to go” (10:1). He gave them authority and power to share the good news of Christ’s kingdom — oh, and to perform a few exorcisms. All in a day’s work, right?

As you might expect, they returned with excitement and amazement. You can picture the scene. They’re hugging, laughing and giving high-fives as they recount demon-possessed people being set free at their word. Certainly, they had never heard of or been part of something so amazing. Yet Jesus used this as a teachable moment.

He said, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Our Lord was not saying that the disciples shouldn’t ever rejoice in earthly success, but instead was elevating their attention to the eternal blessedness of being one of Christ’s true followers. The highest and best reason we have to rejoice is that we are God’s children, and our future is secure through our faith in Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul put it, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20) and so we should primarily focus on and rejoice in things that matter eternally.

The ultimate job description

When I’m feeling the weight of career comparison and the pressure to work harder and accomplish more, deep down I don’t need another motivational pep talk. In those moments, my deepest need is to remember who and Whose I am — and to rejoice that my name is written in heaven.

The next time you feel bogged down by the weight of comparison, remember that if you are trusting in Christ alone for your salvation, your name is written in heaven. You are eternally blessed as one of God’s adopted children, which is far more significant than any accomplishment you could ever achieve on this earth.

Copyright 2020 Andrew Hess. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Andrew Hess

Andrew Hess is the director of content at the White Horse Inn and editor of corechristianity.com. He formerly served as the editor of churchleaders.com. His writing has been featured on The Gospel Coalition. He lives in San Diego with his wife Jen and their young son. Andrew and Jen met at the very first Boundless Pursuit conference at Focus on the Family in 2014.

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