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Ungodly Ambition

Mark 9.33-37
And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Jesus spoke about suffering and death (see verses 30-32), but the Twelve argued over who was the greatest! They misunderstood Jesus' teaching. They lived in a society in which position and power were important, and they thought that the Christian fellowship functioned the same way. Even in the Upper Room, before Jesus went to the cross, the Twelve were still debating over which of them was number one (see Luke 22.24-30). God wants us to be childlike but not childish. In the Aramaic that Jesus spoke, "child" and "servant" are the same word. True greatness is found not in rank or possessions but in character and service (see Philippians 2.1-13).

This is why the disciples, caught up in their desire for personal success, were embarrassed to answer Jesus’ question. It is always painful to compare our motives with Christ’s. It is not wrong for believers to be industrious or ambitious. But when ambition pushes aside obedience and service, it becomes sin. We are all like the disciples and even like the Pharisees in this regard. Pride or insecurity can cause us to overvalue position and prestige. In God’s kingdom such motives are destructive. The only safe ambition is directed toward Christ’s kingdom, not our own advancement. We must renounce pride and status seeking. They are Satan’s tools, not Christ’s.

Pastor Jeff
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