Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves”
Jeremiah 45:5, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them”
What is selfish ambition? It means to be self-seeking and always looking out for one’s own interests above the interests of anyone else. In 1970, the Beatles began work on a documentary intended to show how their music was made. But instead of revealing the process of musical creativity, the film pulled the curtain back on a display of self-interest and bickering. The band members were more concerned about their own songs than the advancement of the group. Shortly after the project was completed, the group dissolved in disharmony and broken friendships. Selfish ambition is present when the motivation is our glory rather than God’s glory.
English pastor and author F. B. Meyer said, “Don’t waste your time waiting and longing for large opportunities which may never come. But faithfully handle the little things that are always claiming your attention.”
My friend, this advice needs to be heeded by believers in Christ today. We must learn to be content, to work with diligence where God has placed us, remembering that He gives grace to those who are faithful to Him, and that one day our efforts will be rewarded. This is essentially the message God gave to Baruch through the prophet Jeremiah. Baruch, the prophet’s secretary, was a man of noble birth who had been kept busy transcribing a message of doom about Jerusalem. However, he was keenly disappointed because his own aspirations were being thwarted. Others were being given the more important posts in the royal court, while he was engaged in routine duties. Perhaps he had expected that some noble position would be offered to him as a reward for his faithful service. Instead, he was rebuked for not being satisfied with the task the Lord had entrusted to him. God said to him, “And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them.” We all need that reminder. Down with selfish ambition so that Jesus Christ, Our Lord may be exalted!
In today’s world selfishly ambitious behavior is greatly and highly praised. Haven’t we all been told we need to look out for number one? In the ordinary affairs of life, the exercise of self-determination may be commendable; however, in relationship to God, out way is never right. Our self-will must be subordinated to His will, as our Savior submissively prayed in Gethsemane’s Garden, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Thus, the Bible considers selfish ambition as evil. It is one of the works of the flesh that we read about in Galatians 5:20. And in Romans 2:8 we read that the wrath of God awaits those who are selfishly ambitious. In James 3:14-16 we read that the wisdom of a selfishly ambitious person comes from the devil, not from above, and in his letter to the Philippians Paul warns us that even ministers of the gospel can be self-seeking and vainglorious (Philippians 1:17). The apostle Paul warns us in Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” In Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.” My friend, selfish ambition can very suddenly sneak into our heart and mind. However, individuals who can set aside selfish ambition and genuinely seek the good of others have an attitude and spirit that pleases God, our Creator. So, the question remains:
(1) What would a documentary of your life reveal?
(2) Has selfish ambition found a way into your heart or mind?
(3) If so, identify it, repent of it, and begin the correction process before it leads to a personal rebellion against God.
A heart that is focused on others will not be consumed with self.