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In our counseling, we find that "selfish ambition"
is a fundamental barricade to intimacy and fruitfulness in people's
relationships, particularly with their spouses. This Biblical term,
eritheia (Strongs #2052), is found in Philippians 2:3 (NASV), where Paul
exhorts us to "do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more
important than himself."
"Selfish ambition" comes from a root word originally
meaning "working for hire, a hireling." Later, the root meant "a spinner
or weaver, a worker in wool." Eritheia was used in secular Greek
of "those who electioneer for office, courting popular applause by
trickery and low arts," thus it meant "electioneering or intriguing for
office" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).
Eritheia thus identifies heart motives of pride,
self-love, and self-advancement. It reveals the drive to put oneself
ahead of others, and to deceive by "spinning" the truth in order to look
good and hide the inner selfish purposes as one pursues getting his own
In Romans 2:8, self-will and self-seeking mark those
who receive indignation and wrath from God's judgement. And James says
(3:15-16) that the wisdom that empowers selfish ambition is earthly,
natural, demonic; it opens the door for disorder and every evil thing.
Clearly, self-saving and self-serving separate people
and kill relationship, even in small doses. When we encounter this heart
condition in counseling, our aim is to expose the motives and their
consequences by the Spirit of God so that understanding and conviction
will come. Eritheia must be laid down through repentance and
replaced with humility. For Paul says (Phil 2:5-8) we are to walk in the
same humility that Jesus Christ displayed when He left heaven and came
to serve men in obedience to His Father's will. It cost Him his life. It
will cost us our lives also.
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