Selfish Ambition | Bible Study on Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit
Paul next mentioned selfish ambition as a work of the flesh. “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19–21).
The Greek term—eritheia—occurs seven times in the Greek New Testament. Unfortunately, when a word is used this little and in extremely similar contexts, it’s difficult to get a full picture of its nuances. The word originally meant work for gain—i.e., going to work to make money. The word came to mean to work for one’s own selfish interest.
“But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Rom 2:8). “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (2 Cor 12:20). Galatians 5:20. “The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains” (Phil 1:17). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil 2:3). “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth” (Js 3:14). “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (Js 3:16).
What are some ways selfish ambition can harm the church?
Why does selfish ambition harm the church? Isn’t ambition healthy—shouldn’t we have men who desire to be elders, deacons, preachers/shouldn’t we have women who desire to be Bible class teachers, elders’ wives, etc.? What is a healthy ambition? What is selfish ambition? How can we tell the difference?
What are some examples of selfish ambition in Scripture? Absalom. Ahab and Jezebel vis-à-vis Naboth’s vineyard. Jezebel vis-à-vis Elijah. James and John and their mother’s asking Jesus for special treatment. Ananias and Sapphira. False apostles.
How can we keep ourselves from selfish ambition?
This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.