Ambition without persistency is but a dream or hope. Observe Jacob’s persistency in the Biblical stories. Does persistency, which has always been a marked characteristic of the Hebrew race, largely explain the achievements of the Jews throughout the world? Note the apparently scientific knowledge regarding breeding of lambs by Jacob in his dealings with Laban. Is it a fact recognized by science to-day? If he knew this and Laban did not, can you justify his acts? Can you justify the act of the director of a corporation who uses his prior knowledge of the business of his corporation to make profit from buying or selling its stocks? Who loses? Is he a trustee for their interests?
What is the meaning of the strange story of Jacob’s midnight struggle with the angel? (Hist. Bible I, 119-20.) What lessons did Jacob learn from this struggle? Would you call Jacob a truly religious man, according to his light and training, or were his religious professions only hypocritical? May he have been sincere, but have had a wrong conception of religion? What is hypocrisy? Did Jacob’s faith in Jehovah, in the end prove the strongest force in his life? Is there any trace in his later years, of the selfish ambition which earlier dominated him? What are his chief interests in the latter part of his life? Did he become the strong and noble character that he might have been had he from the first been guided by a worthy ambition? Were the misfortunes that came to him in his old age due largely to his own faults reappearing in the characters of his sons?
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF AMBITION.
In the ultimate analysis it is the man’s motive which determines his character as well as his acts.
“As he thinketh within himself, so is he.”—Prov. 23:7.
“Man looketh on the outward appearance,
but Jehovah on
the heart.”—I Sam. 16:7.
With many men the strongest motive is the desire to surpass others. It not only leads them to perform certain acts, but in so doing shapes their habits; and character is largely the result of man’s habitual way of acting. Jacob grew up narrow and crafty because of the selfish, dwarfing nature of his ambition, At first his ambition was of a low type, that of the child which desires to acquire possessions and power simply for himself. In the child this impulse is perfectly natural. In the normally developed individual, during the years of early adolescence (the years of 14 to 16) the social and altruistic impulses begin to develop and to take the place of those which are purely egoistic or selfish. When the fully developed man fails, as did Jacob, to leave behind childish things and retains the ambitions and impulses of the child, his condition is pitiable.
Men of this type of ambition often achieve great things from the economic or political point of view. Economically they are of greater value to society than the drifter. Sometimes, however, they bring ruin and disaster to society, as well as to themselves. Despots like Herod the Great and Napoleon, corrupt political bosses, who play into the hands of certain classes at the expense of the general public, and men who employ grafting methods in business or politics, belong to this class.