THE PHARISEES AND SCRIBES
Now we come to Matthew 23:8-12. In this chapter the Lord Jesus rebuked the scribes who knew the Bible so well and the Pharisees who were so religious, calling both of them hypocrites. He rebuked them eight times saying, "Woe to you." Eight times the Lord Jesus called them hypocrites. In chapter five we have nine times of blessing; in chapter twenty-three we have eight times of woe. Before He rebuked the hypocrites, He told His disciples not to take the way of the Pharisees who were always ambitious. They liked to have a position and were always presuming and assuming. His disciples should never be like that. The greatest among them must serve the others. Whoever exalts himself will be abased; whoever humbles himself will be exalted. The economy in the kingdom of the heavens is absolutely different from all the governments of the world. The economy of the kingdom differs even from our own mental economy. In the economy of the kingdom, to gain is to lose, and to lose is to gain; to be great is to be small; to be exalted means to be abased, and to be abased means to be exalted.
My burden is simply to show you that to be ambitious is satanic. Ambition is contrary to the economy of God’s kingdom. In the church, by His mercy and by His life, we must reject every kind of ambition. Every ambitious thought, will, and desire has its source in Satan. Satan is the embodiment of all ambitions.
Let me tell you a story which illustrates the problem of ambition. When I first came to Shanghai in 1933, I met a brother who was very "hot" for the church. He was exceedingly active. I was a stranger and a newcomer to the church there, and he was very good and "hot" toward me. At times he was more than hot—he was boiling. Something that is too hot hurts people. You cannot wash your face with boiling water or you will injure yourself. At that time, I was ignorant and thought, "This brother is such a good brother, so warm toward me." Later I discovered that since the day he had come into the church in 1927, he had expected to be one of the elders. This ambition disqualified him from being an elder. I know this because Brother Nee eventually told me the whole story. Fifteen years later the ambition still remained. Although many new ones had been given some responsibility, this brother was left untouched. No one could touch him because the ambition was still there. Eventually he left the Lord’s recovery and started a meeting in his home, getting a traveling preacher to be the minister. His ambition frustrated him from enjoying the church life and kept him from bearing any responsibility.
As long as we have that kind of ambition within us, the Lord can do nothing with us. Eventually we will be snared by Satan, the ambitious one. This is not a small thing. In our experience over the past years we have seen quite a number of cases like this. Some of the dear ones loved the Lord and had the ability and the intention of doing something for the Lord, but they were unable to do so because of their ambition. Ambition is terrible! We can never have ambitious ones in positions of leadership; they will damage the whole church life.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 29, by Witness Lee)