Worldliness is a great and common evil and it is often manifested in those from whom we should least expect it. The prohibition in the text, namely, Jeremiah 45:5, is applicable to everyone in every generation. From it, we have the following to learn: First, when may we be said to be seeking great things for ourselves? In direct reference to the text itself, we observe that this may be said of us, one, when the objects of our pursuit are great.
The world indeed universally commend ambition: but worldly ambition is very opposite to the self-denying doctrines of Christianity. It was always discountenanced by our Lord (Matthew 8:20; John 6:15; Matthew 6:19-21); and is universally reprobated by his Apostles (Philippians 3:19; Colossians 3:2) and, wherever it rules in the heart, it indicates a carnal and worldly mind (Romans 8:5).
It may also be said of us that we are seeking great things for ourselves when we seek even moderate things with eagerness. Three, it may be said of us that we are seeking great things for ourselves when we seek anything merely for ourselves. We are not at liberty to make self in any instance the chief end of our actions. There is One above us, even God, whose honour we should seek, even in the most common activities of life (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Second, we shall consider why we should not seek great things for ourselves. One, seeking after riches or honours necessarily suggests that we expect to find happiness in the enjoyment of them. Two, we should not seek even moderate things with eagerness. No man is eager after anything except for the love he feels towards it: his eagerness therefore to have it must imply a love of it.
Now an attachment to any of the things of time and sense, especially such an attachment as stimulates us earnestly to pursue them, suggests a want of true love to God (1 John 2:15): for to love both God and mammon is impossible (Matthew 6:24). Three, we should not seek anything merely for ourselves. We are not our own, but God’s. He both formed (Isaiah 43:21) and redeemed (1 Corinthians 6:20. 2 Corinthians 5:15) us, so that we might glorify his name: and he expects his faithful servants to seek, not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:21).
We are, therefore, not at liberty to rob God of his glory or to defeat the great end both of our creation and redemption. To those who are seeking only the things of this world, may I ask: What have you gained by all your past exertions? You are pleased, perhaps, with your success, and have your pride gratified: but are you really happier than you were before you possessed your present honours and emoluments?
If, however, you are determined to seek great things, my appeal to you is: “Seek them;” yes, seek them but only take care that they are truly great. Be not contented with the poor pitiful things of time and sense: let your ambition rise to the very throne of God, and all the glory of heaven. Finally, I have a message for those who profess to seek higher and better things.
If such a person is here this morning, let him consider the text as applied to himself in particular: Do you seek great things for yourself? You who profess to be dead to the world? How dishonourable is such conduct! O “remember where you have fallen; and repent.” Remember the root of Demas’ apostasy (2 Timothy 4:10); and know that the same root of bitterness, if nourished in your hearts, will bring forth the same malignant and destructive fruit.
The best, the only antidote to this poison is, “the love of Christ shed abroad in your hearts” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).