All cultures throw certain stumbling blocks in the way of those who pursue gospel realities. It is sheerest fantasy to suppose that we would have had an easier time of it as Christian believers if we were in another land or another time. It is no easier to be a Chinese Christian than to be a Spanish Christian than to be a Russian Christian than to be a Brazilian Christian than to be an American Christian - nor more difficult. The way of faith deals with realities in whatever time or whatever culture.
But there are differences from time to time and from place to place which cause special problems. For instance, when an ancient temptation or trial becomes an approved feature in the culture, a way of life that is expected and encouraged, Christians have a stumbling block put before them that is hard to recognize for what it is, for it has been made into a monument, gilded with bronze and bathed in decorative lights. It has become an object of veneration. But the plain fact is that it is right in the middle of the road of faith, obstructing discipleship. For all its fancy dress and honoured position it is still a stumbling block.
One temptation that has received this treatment in Western civilization, with some special flourishes in America, is ambition. Our culture encourages and rewards ambition without qualification. We are surrounded by a way of life in which betterment is understood as expansion, as acquisition, as fame. Everyone wants to get more. To be on top, no matter what it is the top of, is admired. There is nothing recent about the temptation. It is the oldest sin in the book, the one that got Adam thrown out of the garden and Lucifer tossed out of heaven. What is fairly new about it is the general admiration and approval that it receives.
-- p. 130 - 131, Life At Its Best by Eugene Peterson
He then tells us the story of Doctor Faustus, then on the next page, he writes, 'There have always been Faustian characters, people in the community who embarked on a way of arrogance and power; now our entire culture is Faustian.'
So refreshing to see this "ambition" (or 'aspiration gone crazy' as he calls in the same chapter) caught out and identified as a stumbling block!