Humilty vs selfish ambition

I think most people have worked hard to try to “look good” in front of our friends and colleagues at work.  In our society, we tend to place value on people by what or who they know, how good they look, and other external things.  We do it because we want to be respected, loved or valued by people in our lives. In one of my favorite practical books for living, James says in 3:13-15,

 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

One of the vices that’s an easy trap is pride.  I haven’t fully escaped this trap yet but always working on it. The vanity in trying to look good is driven by an idolatry inside of us for things we crave.  It’s especially true in our workplace because we want to be promoted, recognized, admired or respected.  Sometimes we get what we’re after… sometimes we don’t.

The downside to trying to “look good” is that we can get ourselves in trouble, and cause even more trouble… trouble in our workplaces, in friendships/relationships, and family-life.  It causes more arguments, resentment, and just complicated negative vibes all over.  It is unspiritual and demonic as it says in James.   In v. 16: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

I get good vibes, positive energy and peace from people who have humility and self-confidence.  Both humility and self-confidence are not mutually-exclusive, but they can go together.  James says in vv. 17-18,

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

These are people I like to work with and hang out with. They’re easy to get-along with. They are not pretentious; they are genuine and authentic. I admired these kinds of people.  Between humility or selfish ambition, I’d rather choose humility (a good article on humility at workplace here).

As we go about daily life, may we be encouraged to practice peace, and be sincere and authentic with others.  Let’s not worry about trying to look good, smart, cool, or try to be better than others.  It’s too much hard work anyway. If we just stay focused on our tasks, work hard, and ask God to help us be the best person we can be, we will naturally reap the benefits and rewards.  Good things will eventually come to you like rain on parched dry land.

Enduring hardship through faith

Living in caves can be modern experience; it can also be a hard life.  It makes me think of a time when the early saints had to endure an amazing amount of cruel and hardship in the pre-church era. Hebrews 11:37-38 (ESV) says:

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

This verse indicates that faithful people of God in the Old Testament had been forced to live underground, in deserts, and hid in dens and caves (as were prophets in 1 Kings 18-19). They were a shunned and disparaged because of their faith. They were not just typical Jewish followers but were despised for their deep faith and conviction within broader Judaism. They were living amongst Jews but were still shunned and seen as an abhorrent sect within Judaism.

In the Church today, there is also sectarianism, as in many other major/established religions. Parts of the Christian church also face disparagement and shunning because of their deep faith and conviction. They are not only persecuted by people of different or opposing religions, but from followers of the same religion.

I’m glad we don’t are not as separated by denominationalism as we formerly were. There are still subtle differences but we have come a long way in being respectful of our religious and spiritual differences. I appreciate that it’s our differences that make us unique and special.

I have brothers and sisters in the Lord who went from borderline fence-walkers to devoted Christian believers. I also some dear friends who went the opposite direction and/or stopped attending church. Our society is multi-faceted. Some of us want more devotion and deeper spirituality. Some of us want less or nothing of the sort for various personal reasons. Despite our personal convictions, God is still sovereign and in control, so who are we to judge others for their deep faith or lack of it?!

May we who are faithful, endure, hold-on, and remain thankful for the sacrifice of our spiritual and religious ancestors who paved the way for us. It made our path of devotion and service to the Lord a little easier to walk. God gives each of us strength to follow him; and faith is given to each generation–even this generation, from Baby Boomers to Millennials to generation Z.  God is forever faithful to us.