The proud father strokes the blond hair on his little boys head and asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “An Astronaut,” he replies with wide-eyed optimism.
The teacher asks the same question to her third-grade class and in turn each child responds. “The President!” “A professional baseball player!” “A firefighter!” Each answer is greeted by a confident affirmation. “Great!” “You can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it.” And thus begins the downward spiral of those lives and our society in the pursuit of selfish ambition.
Now I am not suggesting that we should not encourage or provide our future generations with the necessary opportunities to be all they can be and to do great things. What I am suggesting is that we have (and are) failing to reply to their hopes and dreams with a proper perspective and focus.
Two things come immediately to mind. One is; no matter how I might set my mind to it there are some things I will never be able to do! I will never be able to outrun Usane Bolt! Ridiculous observation you say? No more so than many of the things we tell our children they can do if they “just put their minds to it.” In anticipated response to the offended parent at my attempt to crush little Johnny’s future grandeur allow me to suggest that the correct response is to ask the question, “Why?”
If every young person grew up with an emphasis on service to God and others, this world, and the church, would be a far better place. And not just service for the sake of service, or for the end of feeling good about ourselves, but that we might please God and bring others to Him. We emphasis the idea of letting our “light so shine before men” that they may see our good works. But why should we do so is the more important question. The answer is that they might glorify the Father, not us (Matthew 5:16).
Paul warned the church in Rome that God’s wrath, and not His blessing, would be on those who served out of selfish ambition. “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,” (Romans 2:5-8).
Self-seeking here is translated in other versions as “selfishly ambitious,” “self-willed,” and “self-seeking.” While other translations use the words “contentious” and “factious” because that is exactly what such ambition brings. In James 3:16 we read, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
Also consider the well-established truth that it doesn’t matter so much what we say, but what we do. We may teach our children to be selfless in service and then they may see something completely different in our lives. Philippians 2:3 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Ask yourself this tough question, “Why do I do the things I do?” Be honest. And be prepared to not like the answer. But be prepared to do something about it! “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).