Our newspapers are having a field day with what seem to be an unending stream of gruesome murders.
A recent one includes dismemberment and disposal of the body of a show-biz personality by a film starlet and her man who serves in our armed forces.
How much of what we read is 100% true is of course debatable. But here is one aspect that sticks out for me: we are dealing with absolute, un-abashed naked ambition.
Our dear Indian Express (she who seems blushingly modest compared to the skin-shows other Mumbai papers exhibit each day) quoted police officials saying that the only remorse that the two apparent perpetrators seemed to show is that their promising careers are now ruined.
Come to think of it, why should this surprise us?
We are today swirling in what can only be a see of ambition.
It doesn't matter what it takes - you must make it to the top.
Parents are notorious for desiring that their little ones (and big ones who are still treated as kids) get first in class etc.
The church does not seem immune to it.
Even in our relatively laid-back house-fellowships, I don't recall the last time any parent got up in church and said - please pray that my son will be wise and compassionate and loving. We have had plenty of prayers for exam successes.
Nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but the question is at what cost? When does the quest for excellence become and end in itself - and then when does it become more than that?
The ancients had a word for this: idolatry.
A wise Bible teacher tweaked St. Paul when he said: "A man cannot serve two masters, you cannot love God and Education". By replacing the Biblical word "money" with the respectable word "education" the teacher shows what really drives most of us. We don't want to admit it, but the for most of us this is all that education has been reduced to - a means of making the biggest packet.
The key is to ask the question: is my ambition selfish - or Godly? Most of us find ourselves in the former most of the time - and will try all manner of ways to cloak this with respectability (for which success does wonders).
I have to remember an EMFI students camp in the Pachalur hills in Tamil Nadu. On the wall of the centre was a collage of pictures of the then recently killed bro Graham Staines and his two boys. Next to it someone had pasted this simple poem:
Only one life to live.
Twill soon be past
Only what's done for Jesus will last.