In the ongoing pursuit of being transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus rather than conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, I turn now to the question of selfish ambition. What is conceit except for supposing that we are the center of the universe, and that everyone and everything revolves around us?
The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi in the second chapter and the third and fourth verses, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Elsewhere, the Lord directs us to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
But when in the practice of fearing God rather than fearing men, those around us feel confused and even intimidated by the effectiveness of keeping our heads and maintaining our integrity, we may find ourselves in sticky situations. And as we try to balance being both wise to the schemes of others and also blameless before the Almighty with soberly avoiding anything which might be construed as selfish ambition or conceit, we will find that this is easier said than done.
Yet there does seem to be a clarifying detail in that we are told to look to the interests of others. And in that is our test.
What’s My Motivation?
Are we imitating Christ who sometimes answered entrapping questions with revealing questions of his own? Are we imitating the humble obedience to God the Father even where it meant suffering at the hands of wicked, unjust men?
If we are, then we can have a good conscience.
And are we operating out of a genuine love for those around us – even sometimes our tormenters when we are being tormented? That may not be all smiles and handshakes and “Good mornings” when they are sinning against us. But even where we may need to confront them, if our motivation is their ultimate good and well-being, then we are free and can have peace in our own minds and hearts.
Admittedly, again, it is a tricky thing to be wise as serpents while also doing nothing from selfish ambition. The world would tempt us to strike down Darth Vader only to become the Emperor’s next disciple. But Star Wars metaphors aside, a firm reliance on the good Lord coupled with a ready willingness to wait on him and acknowledge him in all our ways will not see us put to shame.
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