30 July 2012

Preaching as Selfish Ambition

Philippians 1:15-18, 2:3-8

Paul says that some who are preaching Christ do so "from envy and strife" (15) and "out of selfish ambition" (17). This is a striking reminder to me that not all ministry is commendable. Well, the ministry itself may do good, as Paul says in verse 18: "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice." So the pragmatic view would say "no harm done," but Paul zeros in on the heart, on the motive. Envy, strife, and selfish ambition would certainly qualify as sin living deep inside, a festering evil disguised as good.

So what does this person look like? Is it merely a person doing God's work who doesn't have good intentions? What would those intentions be then? Here are my guesses:
-recognition, prestige
-admiration, praise
These seem obvious. But another, more subtle one could be...purpose. I would dare to say if someone does ministry to give themselves purpose, it is still not a pure motive. It is not much different from a nonbeliever doing volunteer work for the fuzzy feelings that accompany it.

Ministry must be for God, and this is always recognizable (ironically) by humility.

I love how Paul talks more about humility in chapter 2 then gives us the perfect example: Jesus. Verse 8 says that He "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." So I get this imaginary interchange with the apostle:

Me: How can I learn to be more humble?
Paul: Be obedient.
Me: So I need to do ministry?
Paul: No, that's church culture speaking. You need to listen to God and be obedient. Possibly ministry is making you proud. In that case, God would ask you to do something even more drastic: to not do ministry. Following God's leading for your life will always lead to humility. So be obedient.
Me: What does God want me to do?
Paul: Ask Him.

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