Summary: Worldly ambition’s causes, symptoms and effects is compared with godly ambition.
1 Timothy 6:3-10 Ambition Brunel Runnymede February 19th 2003
• “You never go further than when you no longer know where you are going” (Goethe).
• Jackson & Caroline story, including going south of the river! 4 hours for 45 minute journey.
• This illustrates: the need for a purpose [reaching heaven] and a good sense of direction [map].
• But do we need ambition?
Definition & importance
• AMBITION- philotimeomai, literally “to love honour” and so, actuated by this motive, “to strive to bring something to pass”.
• On the one hand…“Ambition is the last refuge of failure” (Oscar Wilde).
• On the other…“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” (Oscar Wilde again!).
• “A man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambitions” (Marcus Aurelius). Certainly seems supported by Romans 8:27 which says that God searches our hearts and in Romans 10:10 we are told that it is with our heart that we believe and are justified. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 it says that when the Lord returns He “will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts”. The thief on the cross did not get many hours into his Christian life- just as he was born again, he was about to die. But Jesus could see the ambition of his heart- to trust in the Lord- and so Christ was able to say, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 24:43). So the thief’s worth was equal to that of His ambition- to be with the Lord Jesus Christ and have his citizenship in heaven (as you were reminded last week in Philippians 3:20 and at your weekend away in Hebrews 11).
• So we can conclude from this than ambition is a necessary thing in the Christian life if we are to reach heaven!
• But what kind of ambition? How does this work in practice?
“If I was rich, surely everything would be OK.”
1. Worldly ambition- its causes (v3, 4a)
A. WRONG TEACHINGS- The Beatles said, “All you need is love” and lots of so-called Christians seem to agree with that sentiment. As long as you love Jesus, who needs doctrine or law? An Anglican called Joseph Fletcher wrote a book called Situation Ethics in which he developed the idea of love being the fulfilment of the law (Romans 13:10). And whilst Fletcher rejected cultural relativism, it seems perhaps he took the idea a little too far in letting people define what they thought was loving, at the expense of clearly revealed laws in Scripture. Let’s not forget that Jesus said three times in the Upper Room discourse “If you love me, obey my commandments.” There is a deep and unbreakable connection between loving God, believing God and obeying God. So the first thing Paul addresses as the root of the problem is wrong beliefs.
B. PROUD INDIVIDUALISM- “does not agree to” = does not come near to. Have you heard people say in Bible studies, “Personally, I think it works like this…” or “The God I believe in would never do that”? We are not called to invent doctrine; we are called to hear it, understand it and obey it. The Lord Jesus Christ is the teacher, He gives the sound instruction and we agree with Him! Or do we know more about God than His only Son? The word for “conceited” in verse 4 comes from the word tuphoo (there’s an oo with tuphoo!), which means “wrapped up in smoke or steam”!!! Amazing! Now, if you’re fumbling around in the smoke of your own pride, it’s hardly surprising you know nothing!
Note: Anti-Paul, pro-Jesus? Some people try to get round this by saying they agree with the Master’s teachings, but have a problem with Paul’s anti-Semitism, sexism or whatever. This is the same thing as to attack Jesus, as Paul was and is the Lord Jesus’ “chosen instrument to carry [His] Name before the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15).
2. Worldly ambition- its external symptoms (4,5)
A. STRIFE, PEDANTRY, FRICTION- arguing, and especially over words
"It depends on what the meaning of the word ’is’ is. If the--if he--if ’is’ means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."
The distinction between "is" and "was" was seized on by the commentariat when Clinton told Jim Lehrer of PBS right after the Lewinsky story broke, "There is no improper relationship." Chatterbox confesses that at the time he thought all these beltway domes were hyperanalyzing, and in need of a little fresh air. But it turns out they were right: Bill Clinton really is a guy who’s willing to think carefully about "what the meaning of the word ’is’ is." This is way beyond slick. Perhaps we should start calling him, "Existential Willie."