That Caught My Attention!
“Are you seeking great things for yourself?”
Found in Jeremiah 45:5 (LB), that verse caught my attention the other day. “Are you seeking great things for yourself?” That’s a hard question. Yes. No. Maybe?
Are we supposed to seek great things? Or, are we to be more humble in our opinion of ourselves and our aspirations in life? The world would tell us, Yes! You deserve to be rewarded. Isn’t seeking great things how you get noticed? We are a prize and trophy-driven society. We even keep track of whether or not people “Like” what we say or share online. And the word, viral, is not something to be avoided, but rather is now associated with fame and greatness.
But, wait! The verse doesn’t end with just this open-ended question. It concludes with one emphatic word –
Yes, Don’t! Don’t seek great things for yourself. Wow! That is the exact opposite of the advice we hear from the world every day. But, sadly, I’ve even heard fellow Christians share those desires in Bible studies and small groups settings - sighting Biblical references such as the Prayer of Jabez. But what does it all mean? Is it okay to ask for ‘great things for yourself’ or are we to tread cautiously and be on guard of pride and selfishness at all times?
In this particular case, Jeremiah the prophet was speaking to Baruch who wasn’t coping well with life. He was discouraged, and didn’t like what God had to say. But, God assured Baruch that He was in control and even though He was going to bring disaster on the nation of Israel, Baruch’s life would be spared. And in the midst of this prophecy, is God’s caution to Baruch – “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not.” (NIV)
The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains what was happening this way. “Baruch’s discouragement came because the realities of judgement clashed with his personal aspirations of greatness.” Bottom line – “The hope of a godly person…was to be fixed firmly on God.”
We all want to feel special, but understanding the difference between being appreciated and valued for who God created us to be and seeking out greatness for ourselves - are very different things. God shares many other warnings on the topic that we need to be reminded of and to help us balance out what the world is throwing at us and our children every day. So, what does the Bible have to say about seeking greatness?
Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.”
Selfish ambition is also one of the ‘acts of the sinful nature’ that are listed in Galatians 5:19-21.
And James shares these words of caution, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth…For where you have envy and selfish ambition there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (3:14, 16)
God has a lot to say about selfish ambition, and it is definitely not the path He wants us to take. That’s for sure! So the next time you hear the whispers of selfish ambition and pride creeping into your life, remember God’s warning and just “Don’t!” let yourself go down that path. Instead, follow the advice of James 3:13 when it encourages us to show our ‘good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.’
Now, that way of living is already a truly great reward. How great is that?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Help us to seek our personal worth and greatness in you alone. May we hear your words of love and acceptance deep in our inner soul. Help us not to seek after the great things of this world, but to store up treasures in heaven while loving people here on earth. Give us wisdom to see the opportunities you lay before us each day, and grant us the strength to continue on even when life is discouraging. May our hope be found in you alone, trusting in the reality of an eternal life spent with you!