Covid-19 Devotionals

On Selfish Ambition

As a Marriage Officer, one needs to take the Marriage Register (book), into Home Affairs for them to sign acceptance of the register that has been completed and signed by the wedding couple and their witnesses. Once this has been done, the marriage is considered legally registered at the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa. I arrived at their offices on the corner of Sofie De Bruin and Nana Sita Streets this morning at 7.30am to find myself about 60th in the queue that goes to the Births, Deaths and Marriage section. I waited (like everyone else) in a queue that once moving, moved slower than “snail pace”. When I was about 30th in the queue, I realized there were three queues verging into one.

By the time I got to the entrance, my temperature was taken and I needed to sanitize and complete an entrance form with all the normal information. I was then sent to the 3rd floor. On arrival there I was told that no one is at the “marriage counter”. I need to go to the 1st floor. Once there, there was one person ahead of me and a very helpful gentleman assisted me and I was on my way. From entering the building to leaving it, it took me less than 15 minutes … but before that I queued for 3 ¼ hours. The office on the 1st floor was busy with many people sitting at various counters to be helped. I asked the man who helped me if they are normally this busy and he responded saying: “Eish, every single day it is like this.” I would suggest that the staff are exhausted when the day ends.

Let me elaborate a little about standing in the queue. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand almost still for long. I can walk or work for hours but to stand is likely one of the worse possible punishments for me. During those 3 ¼ hours I read a book, a few pages at a time. I made notes for a meeting I was to have this afternoon, I read the online news, I checked my emails, sent a few messages, prayed … and …. repeated this process a good few times. There were times my back really ached … my feet were sore … I felt irritable and frustrated because of the slow pace we moved.

But then … looking around me, I seemed to be the oldest person queuing, yet everyone was going through the same problem I was going through. It’s then you stop and realize that it’s not just my back, my feet, my irritation … me that could be doing something more profitable … everyone was in the same boat. I was plain selfish, and to crown it all, the queue was not a useless waste of time. I was actually very productive. Apart from my prayers, I covered a good few pages of J.I. Packers book: “Amongst God’s Giants”, I caught up on the morning’s latest news and I was able to think through my coming meeting, making discussion points. I was productive … but I was selfish as well. This, beloved, was sinful because everyone went through what I was going through … yet, unlike many who just stood there, I was productive. Selfish!

We often rush read the passage containing the “acts of the sinful nature” and miss seeing ‘selfish ambition’ which with other sins is a sin that will exclude one from heaven! Find it in these verses:

Gal 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Phil 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Jam 3:14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

In all three passages we find the term “selfish ambition”. The concept is to put self forward. “I think I am better than others so I need preferential treatment.” Put it like this … “I am a marriage officer. I’m serving the state when I perform a wedding ceremony so I ought to be allowed to join the front of the queue and be served first.” That is selfish ambition.

The term “selfish ambition” includes temper tantrums and canvassing for office. Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden of the USA have been canvassing for office. Each one wants the keys to the Oval office. Yet, should either have used underhanded methods or cheating, they would be guilty of “selfish ambition”. A temper tantrum does not necessary mean a public demonstration of unhappiness … it might be an internal burning, raging because I can’t get my way. So, selfish ambition means to put oneself forward as having the right before others, to election for office deceitfully or to throw one’s toys out of the cot like an angry toddler. Even though my feelings and body language were internal, my attitude at times was so wrong. As said, I was likely the oldest queuing, but there were people there because loved ones died, babies were born (many had a baby in the arm), needing to be registered, people were seeking divorce status or confirmation of marriage … my impatience was sinful. I was one of many equal people needing help.

Father of Glory, graciously forgive me for being selfish. Help me to remember that many others have needs greater than I do. Grant me the grace of patience and my heart to put others before me … for Christ sake. Amen.

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