Chapter 2 continues the run on catch phrases. Unfortunately that seems to be how many in the church today view the scriptures, as a collection of catch phrases. That is a topic for another time and another place. Today I want to focus on one of the many catch phrases contained in the defined area of Philippians 2.
Paul encourages us to, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not look only to your own interests, but also the interests of others."(vs. 3-4). Ambition is what jumps off the page at me. Through the centuries many have thought, because of this portion of scripture, it not appropriate for a follower of Christ to have ambition. Clearly that is not what the passage says. There is an important qualifier there, selfish. The prohibition is not on ambition, it is on the wrong direction of ambition. When we look at Paul himself we find a very ambitious man. We also get the sense of a man who is not focused on his greatness, but the furthering of the Kingdom of God. Paul is not ambitious for Paul, rather for the work of God. We are all to be ambitious, as individuals and as a community of God.
In the midst of being ambitious it is crucial to remember our station in life. This is not a matter of status, such as economic or job level. This not a matter of race, or anything other than remembering we are the children of God, and not God. That is the beginning of humility. Jesus was well aware that while on the earthly pilgrimage, he was yes fully God, but a God who had chosen to be limited. Jesus remembered on earth he was like us, a child of God. With that foundation it is easier, not easy, to put down the comparison game and simply follow after God. Our measure is not against another person, rather it is to God. Therefore we can view others as people on the journey with us instead of people racing against us. It is hard to put the needs of another ahead of your own, if there is a sense of competition.
We are called to be people of ambition. It is to be a humble ambition, seeking to see the work of God further extended. It is ambition that takes the eyes off of self and focuses them on God.