The Trap of Vain Glory
“Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king” (Prov. 25:6).- Proverbs 17:19; 25:6, 7, 27
Vain glory, selfish ambition, and self-exaltation pervade the working environment perhaps more than any other traits. Some people do not struggle with diligence and industry because they are driven by their own selfish desires to be “successful.” Often their families are neglected, and concerns about their souls and eternity are all but forgotten in the mad dash to glory and fame, power and wealth, accomplishment and “success.”
What does God have to say about such vain pursuits? “For men to seek their own glory is not glory” (Prov. 25:27). No matter what we do, whether we eat or drink—or work—we are to do all things for the glory of God. If your goal in your employment is self-glory and self-exaltation, if you are driven by ambition instead of a love for the glory of God, you are considered a fool in the sight of God. This does not mean that you are to go about your work indifferent to a pursuit of excellence. God expects you to work diligently, as we have already talked about in previous lessons. But what is your motivation? What is your goal? “Before honor comes humility.” If you are unwilling to humble yourself before others and before God, your success, if you attain any at all, will be empty and meaningless. If you allow your ambitions to drive you, you will be easily tempted to sin in the most grievous ways. You will easily fall into the trap of getting what you want at any price. You might be tempted to make unwise business decisions in the promotion of your own goals; such decisions can lead to ruin and poverty. You can even be tempted to compromise your integrity and honesty as a Christian in order to attain fame, wealth, and power.
For a Christian, success is the faithful fulfillment of God’s will. Jesus’ work was successful because He humbled Himself before His Father and carried out His will with diligence and submission. He did not seek His own glory, but humbled Himself in the service of others. The vocation to which God has called you can easily become a temptation to exalt yourself. Refrain from such a temptation and model your life after Christ in your work. Put aside all worldly striving and ambition and humbly seek God’s glory instead of your own.
Read Philippians 2:1–11 and Galatians 5:13–26. Have you pursued earthly success in order to fulfill your ambition? If so, consider giving up those positions or pursuits in obedience to God. In what other ways do you seek to exalt yourself? Examine your motives and confess ways in which you seek your own glory.
Passages for Further Study
Matthew 20; 23
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343