Worldly AmbitionBro. David Chancellor
10/22/2006 6:00 PM
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister; And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
We want our lives to be all they can be, and accomplish all that God would have us to accomplish. We don’t want to be a lazy people, but we also don’t want the ambition that is of the world, that strives to rise above others. People who get ambitious don’t always know what they’re asking for. They see the glories but not the trials of the position.
What motivates us? The other 10 disciples were displeased with these two because they wanted the same thing. We need to be careful about seeking out positions and titles. We should go to work to do a good job. Our interest should be in doing the thing, not in the position or title.
This kind of ambition especially shouldn’t be happening at church. We’re here to fill the place God put us in. We shouldn’t be out to get a position or to stand out above others. God’s kingdom isn’t about achieving position or title.
Jesus told these to be willing to serve and help others. It takes a much different motivation to do this than it does to try to get to the top. We just want to be one of God’s people and best accomplish his work wherever he puts us.
2 Samuel 15:1-6
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
Absalom wanted to be king. That position wasn’t promised to him. At least two of David’s sons tried to become king without God’s blessing. Absalom wanted the position badly enough that he was working to depose (and even kill) his dad. He didn’t really care about justice, but he used it as a way to win men’s favor in order to promote himself. When you’re trying to advance yourself, you’ll do whatever it takes to achieve your goal.
We need to make sure that whatever we do comes from a right motivation. We want to promote God’s cause, not ours. All that we do should be done to be a help and a blessing to others. Our songs should be for God and bring across good to others, not to put self on display. It’s about more than entertainment. The spirit of worldly ambition and self promotion has no place in God’s church. Keep the motivation behind the work for God what it should be.
Then spake Jesus to the multitude and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes, and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men; they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
The Jews needed to do what the word of God taught. When you expect more of others than you do of yourself, there’s a problem. Always start your expectations with yourself. Bear some burdens for someone else.
"But all their works they do for to be seen of men…" This is the other problem. We need to care more about helping people than about playing politics. If we live right, the rest will work itself out. If we work at being a blessing whether anyone notices or not, God will handle the rest. We’re not out to be seen of men, or to impress people. We can be content to take the lowly place. If you’re doing God’s work, you can be glad to be just one of God’s people. Different positions have different responsibilities, but it’s all about being one of the brethren and doing what God gave you to do in the place where he put you. Don’t go seeking a title or to be set apart from everyone else. We need to keep our focus on working together, not on standing out. Problems arise when men become ambitious to promote self. Men need to keep a love for the gospel and for the souls of men ahead of self. Anything else would be wrong. Our desire should be to lift up Jesus and let others find what we’ve found in him.
1 Timothy 6:6-10
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
For some, ambition is the desire to be rich. Men naturally desire to provide for their families and keep them from need. This is different than desiring to be rich. Stop and look at rich people. What do they do with all that they have? They can only enjoy so much at once. We can choose things that will provide without causing us to lose our focus on God. Don’t let work become your life. There are other things you can do that are also important. The desire to be rich goes beyond meeting the needs of your life; it is the desire to lift up self. Don’t seek out and live for payday. Look for something you can do well and enjoy. Being able to be content where you work is more important than having piles of cash. Work somewhere where you can be godly and content. Keep your focus where it should be, on God and helping others. We need to live to be a benefit and a blessing to our fellowman. We don’t want anything to come between us and God.
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Things are put here for God’s glory. He should have the preeminence in everything. Worldly ambition seeks to promote self, not God. We want people to remember Jesus, not us, when we’re gone. We want them to see that Jesus will make a difference for them, too. In all that we do as a church, we want Jesus to be lifted up. If there is a desire to preach, that is a good thing… it’s desiring a good work. Desire a good work, not a high title. Keep Jesus first and foremost. We won’t accomplish his work if we’re pursuing selfish interests. We want Jesus to be lifted up and our lives to be all they can be for God.