SELFISH

November 19, 2021

Some things are what one might call polar opposites. The absolute antithesis of one another. They just don't mix.

You can't have broad-minded bigotry. Or callous warmth. One cannot be ignorantly perceptive or cheerfully angry. They just cannot go together. The very nature of one thing precludes the other.

Love and selfishness are like that. Mutually exclusive. Love always seeks the good of the one who is loved; but selfishness cannot take its eyes off of its own ambition, even at the expense of others. When your eyes are focused upon yourself, you'll certainly miss the big picture.

Today's verse tell us WHERE YOU HAVE ENVY AND SELFISH AMBITION, THERE YOU FIND DISORDER AND EVERY EVIL PRACTICE

A good lesson in the difference between love and selfish ambition can be found in the tenth chapter of Mark's gospel. Jesus and His disciples are on the road up to Jerusalem when He takes them aside from the crowds and tells them for the third time what is about to happen in the city. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” He says, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

Can you imagine? Jesus has just told the ones closest to Him that this is the trip that will become the turning point in history. Betrayal, death, resurrection. That's heavy stuff!! I can almost see them walking up towards the city and wondering what all this meant. But then James and John - the ones who had already earned the nickname of "Sons of Thunder" -- jump in to make sure they get their request heard. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

That's the kind of question that is sure to raise eyebrows. It's a prelude to a huge request. When you get this introduction you can bet there's a whopper of a demand coming right around the corner. And there was!

“Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

Wow!!! The Hebrew word for that is chutzpah. The insensitivity of timing is hard to fathom. Jesus has just described His imminent death. A death that will be painful and brutal. James and John see it as the best moment for them to ask for eternal favors. I'm dumbfounded by the mere thought of it. (I love the way the bible presents us with the good, the bad and the ugly in its dealings with people. We get to see them, warts and all!! It is encouraging to see the fouled up people that God can use. It gives me hope.)

WHERE YOU HAVE ENVY AND SELFISH AMBITION, THERE YOU FIND DISORDER AND EVERY EVIL PRACTICE

James and John drop their request on the table, and their envy and selfish ambition on full display. When the other ten disciples heard it, they became indignant with James and John. Their problem was obvious, too. "Hey !!! Those guys want to take MY PLACE !!!" Every one of them had wanted the positions of highest honor, and they were angry that James and John had beaten them to the punch by asking for them first.

Jesus knows the best antidote for a heart focused on itself is to turn it outward towards others. Real power is found in humility and service, not pride and position. So He tells them whoever wants to be "the greatest" needs to look to become the greatest servant. The one who wants to be first on the list must choose to become slave of all.

The path to true greatness isn't found at the head of an army or in the C-suite of a company. Many a person ruled by selfish ambition has gotten there and destroyed themselves. The true test of greatness is found in the ability to serve.

Some things are what one might call polar opposites. The absolute antithesis of one another. They just don't mix. Selfish love tops that list. True love is selfless and serving. It is focused upon giving, not getting; helping, not hurting. True love is the opposite of selfish ambition.

It is the kind of love Jesus demonstrated on the road to Jerusalem that day. And the kind of love He put on display for all the world to see a few short days later by sacrificing His life for ours.

WHERE YOU HAVE ENVY AND SELFISH AMBITION, THERE YOU FIND DISORDER AND EVERY EVIL PRACTICE

But turn it around and with true love you have joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

James and John (as well as nine of the other disciples) eventually learned this lesson. James became the first of the disciples to die a martyr's death. John became known for his exemplary love of Christ. Only Judas lost the lesson entirely, swayed by a bag of money that bought his betrayal.

Selfish ambition will destroy everything you have, even if it looks like you have everything.

But true wealth is found in the priceless love of Jesus Christ and letting Him lead you into His glory as He teaches you to love as He loves.

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