Godliness Vs. Ambition: Pt 1
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
PHIL 2:3, 1 TIM 6:6
The natural person is very focused upon circumstances, but God teaches us that the great meaning in our lives is to live fully for godliness. That there is great dignity for every person in Christ, no matter who we are, and that each person has their own portion, for everyone gets to live fully for godliness.
When we think contentment means compromising or settling, we think that God calls us to live in a state of neglect. Rather, as God commands us to walk away from conceit and selfish ambition, He calls us to godly contentment, and this is a great and full portion.
Each person is to live their lives not seeking what is outside of their lot, but seeking to fulfill their lot. We do so by doing our utmost within our lot for the glory of God. While our selfish ambition is always condemned and we absolutely contend against conceit—that within us which seeks to raise ourselves over others as superior—we are never condemned for fulfilling our own lot; indeed, this is what we are called to. “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” (1 Cor 7:17)
The way in which we do this is by seeking to do our fullest for godliness and God. While this attitude of “great effort” does not belong to any sinful desire, it does belong still to our lives, to our lot, for the glory of God. This is the great purpose and dignity for all of us. This work is our own, our own personal possession.
The objective in our life that we must always look to is godliness and nothing else. We must measure all things by this alone. The question and ambition before us in each circumstance is always, “Where is godliness? That is the path I must take.”
A great many people believe they can live for their pleasures as long as they do not live for great sins. They take things that are “neutral” and believe they are permitted to live however they wish within them. But our aim is godliness alone in all things. This means that we should not be consumed with obtaining our will; rather, we should be entirely centered upon being godly within the circumstances we are in. If we are single, then we should be concerned with being godly in singleness. If we are poor, we should be concerned with what it means to be godly in our poverty. We should seek all things from a godly heart, and this should be still from a place of seeking what we need in order to live our lives after godliness.
The measure for all of us is that we would desire all things out of godliness alone. This means that we should even seek marriage, family, leadership, and jobs out of a desire for godliness.
“Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them. Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you--although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” (1 Cor 7:20-21 NIV) The great truth that God teaches us is to be free unto godliness within whatever circumstances we find ourselves. This is vastly different from what the world teaches, for the world teaches that meaning is only found within escaping or obtaining certain circumstances. God’s word in such passages as Ephesians 6:5 is not that He condones certain circumstances as good, but that He shows a person precisely how to not be condemned by such things, regardless of where they find themselves, as if they are not permitted a full lot in this life unless they somehow managed to escape such circumstances.
God is infinitely wise, and He does not condemn people in inescapable circumstances to meaninglessness. Rather, He directs them to have fullest meaning within their circumstances right where they are. God does this that they might live filling their lives to the brim with godliness, and that no circumstance can deny this to them. This is exactly what Ephesians 5:22-6:9, at least in many ways, points to. This is how to live after godliness, fully within the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
While looking at the relationships detailed here, these passages teach a person how to go about the pursuit of godliness within their circumstances. To take one of these as an example, women for a great majority of history have been treated with inequality and have been greatly demeaned. If we were to take these words as a suggestion that women, slaves, or children should subject themselves to believing what their circumstances say about them, then we would do great violence. But if we understand these things to mean that a person should not be “troubled” about these things (1 Cor 7:21), but rather be taught how to hold their peace within them, and how to pursue godliness in spite of them, then we understand something great here. Then we see something the world absolutely does not understand.
Now, of course I am not saying that there is not great purpose today in understanding wives submitting to their husbands, husbands laying their lives down for their wives, children obeying their parents, or employees giving their absolute best service for their employers. What I am saying is that we should see these things still with the same heart. One in which we quiet ourselves before God and take up the pursuit of godliness in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, and understand that the principles laid out here are often the means by which we can pursue godliness in our circumstances. In this we will see that we are called to peace. Husbands, stop seeking to be free of your family (in heart, mind, or action) and lay your life down for your wife. You do not need to be “outside of” or “above” your family in order to have purpose. Children, stop fighting being under authority, and simply offer up your obedience wherever it is godly. You do not need to be anxious to be an adult (out from under your parents’ authority) to have a faithful pursuit of God. Employees, take great peace in simply working and doing your job, and stop thinking you must be in some higher occupation in order to have purpose. Do your work, right there, for God. The only distinction is if you do it for God or for man (Col 3:23). This means that any work can be done in a godly way, unto the Lord. Wives, the way you can express your love for Christ is in submission to your husbands wherever it is godly. This is not declaring his superiority; this submission is a worship of Christ, and it is most certainly not the only godliness we are called to, only part of it. Everything laid out here is how all people can seek godliness right where we find ourselves.
As we learn what it means to walk in godliness with contentment we will go on in Part 2 to discuss some of what this does not mean and what we often confuse godly contentment to mean. We need to know where this applies and where it does not in order to have peace.
November 30, 2020