Selfish Ambition and Vain Conceit

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3

My study of Philippians today included this verse.  Of particular interest to me was that the word “Do” was not in the original Greek, but was supplied by the translators.  Several commentaries agreed that in keeping with the context of the verses before and after, it would probably be more accurate to have supplied the word “Think”.  This certainly increases the intensity of the verse, extending it beyond our actions and into our thought life.

The following passage is from the Albert Barnes commentary.  See if you can read through it without seeing yourself.  I couldn’t.

The idea seems to be that of mere self-esteem; a mere desire to honor ourselves, to attract attention, to win praise, to make ourselves uppermost, or foremost, or the main object. The command here solemnly forbids our doing anything with such an aim – no matter whether it be in intellectual attainments, in physical strength, in skill in music, in eloquence or song, in dress, furniture, or religion. Self is not to be foremost; selfishness is not to be the motive. Probably there is no command of the Bible which would have a wider sweep than this, or would touch on more points of human conduct, if fairly applied. Who is there who passes a single day without, in some respect, desiring to display himself? What minister of the gospel preaches, who never has any wish to exhibit his talents, eloquence, or learning? How few make a gesture, but with some wish to display the grace or power with which it is done! Who, in conversation, is always free from a desire to show his wit, or his power in argumentation, or his skill in repartee? Who plays at the piano without the desire of commendation? Who thunders in the senate, or goes to the field of battle; who builds a house, or purchases an article of apparel; who writes a book, or performs a deed of benevolence, altogether uninfluenced by this desire? If all could be taken out of human conduct which is performed merely from “strife,” or from “vain-glory,” how small a portion would be left!

2 thoughts on “Selfish Ambition and Vain Conceit

  1. Des November 21, 2008 / 8:01 pm

    I think this is the paradigm shift that Jesus talks about with the unveiling of his kingdom in the gospels. There isn’t room for self, in fact the greatest commandments talk nothing of self, but only of love for God and man.

    That being said, where do we cross that line between doing a good job and being vain about it? If I play the piano in church and mess up, am I vain for feeling bad? If I build a house, am I self focused for making sure the foundation is square?

    I guess it all gets down to where our motivation is and only God can judge that.

  2. Scottie November 24, 2008 / 10:48 am

    *(cheeks flushing…feeling very uncomfortable at this moment)*


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