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Our 4-year-old son sat at the edge of the kiddie pool with a spray bottle filled with water in his hand. It was a great toy for him on that humid 90-degree evening in June. There were other colorful plastic toys also, but that one was especially fun.  He enjoyed spraying himself and anyone else who was nearby.

My husband, two friends and I were sitting on the pool’s edge keeping an eye on our son.  The pool was not very crowded. In fact, on this particular evening, we were the only ones there, other than the lifeguard.

Then, two boys appeared, who were about 10 and 12 years of age.  They immediately jumped in the pool and soon befriended our son.  They rather humbly approached him and asked if they could play. They allowed him to squirt them and they each took a turn at squirting him.  The squirt bottle did not spray very far, but the spray was refreshing. They were having a great time. The boys were filled with smiles, good humor, friendliness and amazing, uncommon humility. They played together beautifully for about an hour.

When we were ready to leave, we all said “good-bye” and “thank you.” We complimented them on their kindness. Their help in entertaining our 4-year-old was much appreciated. We said that we hoped to see them again.

Commando Squad

The next evening the scene was identical. We were watching our son play with his spray bottle in the kiddie pool. Suddenly in the pool area the “Commando Squad” appeared, carrying large, new “super soaker” guns. The two boys who had befriended our son the previous evening had arrived.  But this time they did not smile, nor were they kind or friendly. They bore scowls and anger on their faces. Even their walk was different; it was arrogant and demanding. They were so vicious toward our son with their squirt guns that we had to ask them to leave him alone. We could not believe that they were the same boys!

What would make these service-minded young men change overnight? What would cause anybody to lose such a beautiful attitude?

Growing in Selfish Ambition and Conceit

I am using the story of what happened to these boys as an example of what could happen to us as Christians. Of course, for the boys it happened overnight; but for us it might take months or years for us to lose our love of serving. Realistically, the boys probably just wanted to be “cool.” They possibly would have come back on a third day, again willing to love and serve. However, we could use their example to visualize and learn.

In Philippians 2:3 Philippians 2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
American King James Version×
Paul tells us what may happen to make a service-minded individual change. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit.” Selfish ambition and conceit may have entered their hearts.

The dictionary calls ambition “a strong desire for success, fame, power, wealth, etc.” Selfish ambition might be described as a focus on our 1) power and responsibility; 2) job, position or title; or 3) the desire to look “cool ” in the eyes of others, (instead of the people we are trying to serve).

The boys used their new “super soakers” as a tool to let us know they had power. They no longer wanted to serve our little boy, but decided that it was more important to achieve a certain image. They were visibly “lifted up.”

Conceit may contribute to a Christian’s attitude change as well. An inflated image of self (one’s greatness, talents or abilities) is an enemy of service-mindedness.  Do we begin to see ourselves as too important to serve and love little ones? 

Can this happen to us? Can we grow in selfish ambition and conceit? It may be easier than we think to grow in these harmful ways, though it is unlikely that it would happen overnight.

The solution to stopping selfish ambition and conceit is found in the remainder of Philippians 2:3 Philippians 2:3Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
American King James Version×
and continuing in verse 4.  “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” 

Fighting Selfish Ambition

How can we, as Christians, fight against selfish ambition and conceit? Here are some things we can do:

Focus on the needs of the people we are serving, rather than our power, job or title. This is love and this will help stop selfish ambition.

Focus on God, the giver of our abilities, rather than on our own talents. This is humility and this will help stop conceit

Ask God to help us repent of any seeds of selfish ambition or conceit that are in us.

Finally, pray that you might  grow in godly service, leadership, sincere love and humility.

Let us not carry selfish ambition and conceit as  “super soakers” to “soak” or “put down” others. We must not allow ourselves to grow in these ways! Refuse to grow in selfish ambition and conceit!  UN

Bev Galli is a member of the Columbus, Ohio, congregation.