“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.“
The plea for unity in the commands of verses 3 and 4 is given on the basis of the privileges of verse 1. Now Paul challenged believers with self-centered problems.
Paul argued against two negative attitudes in this verse.
“Let nothing be done through”
“Through” indicates that Christians use these two negative attitudes to attain their goals in the Christian community.
“Selfish ambition” is the same term used in 1:17 for those who opposed Paul. This word is used again in 5:20 for a characteristic of the flesh. It means party spirit or faction. This involves intrigue by a person who wants to promote his own cause.
Self-assertiveness is a cultural value, not a Christian value. To impose our will on others and not respect their volition distorts unity. Strife knocks others down by manipulation and intrigue. It tries to get people on their side by insidious means. So this person promotes his own cause by any means possible.
Some politicians care nothing about the truth; they just care whether their party wins. They are passionate about their point but care little about its veracity. They do not care about the welfare of their constituency; they are simply squabblers in a petty campaign. They fight to win not to find the truth. Many believers care little about truth; they simply want to win at all costs. The acclaim of men is more important than principle.
“Conceit” means empty glory. “Strife” knocks others down in order to win; “conceit” parades itself before others. It means to deck oneself out with a façade that has nothing behind it. A conceited person also lives for applause. An ovation from men is more important than the approval of God.
This is a person who appropriates to self what belongs to God, believing self to be the ultimate purpose for existence rather than God. We should be the means and not the end. When we sit in the status of God and deck ourselves in His majesty, we operate in shallow sovereignty. It is a shallow thing for us to take God’s dues.
Where do self-assertiveness end and vainglory begin? They appear to be two sides of the same coin.
Intrigue and self-glory damage the Christian community.
Factions, feuding, bickering, and attempts to manipulate other Christians into our viewpoint violate Christian norms. Our goal in this methodology is to parade ourselves; it is vanity.