“The acts of the flesh are obvious…I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)
The “acts of the flesh” are obvious, easy to detect (at least in other people).
I once preached on the word translated “fits of rage” and a woman sitting right in my eye-line nodded furiously, every minute or so, and poked her husband at important moments of insight. I wasn’t sure if she was confessing something in herself or reminding her husband of his shortcomings, until with a semi-suppressed groan of anguish, he stood and walked out. I’m sure he didn’t mean to slam the door.
The word following “fits of rage” is translated “selfish ambition.” It’s the word eritheia, which has an interesting history. It started out as a perfectly respectable word meaning “to work for pay.” Over time, it began to mean the kind of work that is done for money and for no other reason.
Then it was used to describe politicians who campaign for election, not for what service they can give to the government and the people, but only for their own glory and benefit. It ended up meaning ‘selfish ambition‘, the ambition which has no conception of service and whose only aims are profit and power.
It is the heart of someone whose first question is always, “What’s in it for me?”
Paul concludes: “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” How can they? It’s like heading towards Dublin and hoping that you’ll make it to Cork. One direction necessarily excludes another. You can either follow the Jesus-way of the kingdom, or not.
And anything else, is, in a sense, an ambition rooted in the self.