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This Can Be A Sucker-punch to your Marriage... Are you doing it?

In part, Paul is talking about the dangers of trying to use negative things to meet a need. Specifically "selfish ambition and conceit." TO be clear, we ALL have needs and most of us operate out of a place of trying to meet that need. In fact, a lot of our negative behavior is an attempt to meet a need. However, if we can figure out what need we are trying to meet through that behavior, it’s possible that we can reframe that into something positive.

This is not only good parenting advice but it can be helpful for our marriages as well. When it comes to human behavior it is not very complex when you try to look at the root of what might be causing the attitude, behavior, or the words that are being communicated. For instance, the "I hate you.." speech, as succinct as it is, communicates a loss in trust, a feeling of things being out of control, and hurt. I am hurt so I want to hurt YOU in return.

Recognizing our own selfishness in these behaviors and statements can be helpful as well. In fact, the goal to a healthy marriage is that instead of trying to change the other person, I look at my own contributions to the relationship and through the help of the Holy Spirit, allow the Lord to change MY HEART instead. This is the VERY THING Paul addresses in the verse above.

Paul says: "Do nothing from selfish ambition." Selfish ambition is putting MY DESIRES ahead of the other person...or SPITE of the other person. I don’t care if it hurts them, or causes them grief, I am going to pursue MY AGENDA. Most often it's at the sake of the relationship, rather marriage, a work relationship, or a friendship.

There are TWO Greek words to explain what selfish ambition means here: erethizō (air-eh-theed-zoh) this literally means to stir up and excite, or to provoke...

One form of this is SARCASM. We’re all pretty familiar with what sarcasm is, but what many of us don’t realize is the hidden purpose of it. Sarcasm is often used to not only criticize others in a passive aggressive way, it’s also used to communicate a hurt without just saying what’s on your mind. It's camouflaged in humor, but it’s typically a sign of unexpressed anger.

Almost ALWAYS, the person with the sarcasm issue says: “It’s not a big deal” or “Oh my gosh..grow up, they KNOW I’m kidding...” Yes, sarcasm can be used in a way that is not harmful, so what you have to ask is “Is it worth the risk?” Is it worth what it may cost me in the end?

What’s interesting is that it comes from the Greek work sarcasmus which means to “tear ones flesh.” The point of sarcasm is to deliver a deep blow to someone so that it somehow makes ME feel superior to everyone else. Here’s the problem, sarcasm not only takes away TRUST but it hinders being able to BUILD UNITY in friendships, you’re never sure if you are going to become the next TARGET of their comment.

The second word for selfish ambition is: eritheia (airy-THIGH-ah) it means the desire to put yourself AHEAD of others, electioneering for office. It can be viewed as a complete disregard for others in attempt finish first.

If you need to lie, you’ll lie, if you need to manipulate, you won’t hesitate to do that either. Whatever it will take to ensure that you come first is wheat matters most. As we will see in a moment, relationships are about putting OTHERS first. Not in our culture though. Our culture says “YOUR HAPPINESS” is the most important thing. LOOK at what Paul says, he takes it one step further...

Phil 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit... the Greek word: kenah-DOX-iah

The word used in older versions of the Bible is translated as: VAINGLORY means that we advance ourselves through empty and MEANINGLESS activity. Also, it means that we are looking for praise or affirmation in something that is not even worthy of praise.

This would describe about half of my college experience. AND I went to a Christian college. For real, I was constantly trying to impress other people in order to gain their acceptance: VAINGLORY.

I was constantly doing things so that they would even just TAKE NOTICE of me, even if for negative reasons: VAINGLORY. Seeking praise and fishing for thanks or compliments is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of unity and the complete opposite of God’s design for relationships. Especially in marriage. Because as we’re going to see: Marriage is a healthy competition to put the other person FIRST.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor Romans 12:10

I have made this the theme verse for my own marriage. "But Pastor Mark what happens if Kristin is DEAD WRONG about something." My response, what does it matter? The reality is that I am probably not going to change her mind by arguing and even if I DO HAPPEN to be right, what will it cost me to prove it?

HOWEVER, If I am trying to outdo Kristin in honoring her, then I am naturally going to deny myself the things that will DIS-honor her. I am not going to go out of my way to talk to someone of the opposite sex, because that’s opening my heart to an affair. I am NOT going to look up stuff that will make her feel like she’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH...I am not going to speak disrespectfully to her.

There is a TEAMWORK attitude that you need to have in marriage in which both partners are working towards the same goal. I am NOT trying to get my mate to be the perfect partner, but instead I am working for ME to be the perfect partner so that in my marriage I know that I am above reproach.

THINK about it THIS WAY: In EVERY relationship there will be a TUG-OF-WAR. There will be a fight for control in every relationship we experience but there is no fight if you decide to be of the SAME MIND, SAME LOVE, and you will work TOGETHER (Philippians 2:2) instead of insisting on your OWN RIGHTS in the relationship.

The other person is NOT the enemy (our battle is not against flesh and blood... Eph 6:12) In marriage we must get to a point where we BOTH need to lay down the rope. Neither one trying to pull the other or change the other and working ONLY to change ourselves. Allowing God to change OUR hearts.

When we are in it for ourselves we give little thought to how our actions affect the OTHER person in that relationship. It’s an idea that we look out for each other in a way that is MUTUAL.

Ephesians 5:21. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This means out of respect and HONOR that we submit. This reverence is a healthy love and respect.

Wives Ephesians 5 says, SUBMIT TO: YOUR OWN husbands. Wives then respect and HONOR their husbands by WORKING THROUGH differences, not just complaining about them or tearing down their husband.

My wife is a wonderful example of this. I don’t have to worry about my wife bad mouthing me to anyone or making jokes about me or belittling me in front of people. She doesn’t do it. Why? Because she knows that more than ANYTHING my deepest need is respect.

She doesn’t talk bad about me to her mom, to her friends, “That’s what YOU THINK Pastor Mark....” But you’re wrong…if you don’t respect someone it comes out in the way they treat you, comments, they make AND believe it or not, in the way that your kids treat you…

Likewise, men are called to LOVE their wives. Hear the word CHERISH in there too. I have found that when I CHERISH my wife, when I LOVE her, I have no problem with her being willing to RESPECT ME. I cannot think of a greater need that my wife has other than to know that she ALONE holds my love. That she alone is the recipient of my affections.

In fact, look at how JESUS treated WOMEN in the Bible. THAT should be our guide. In every instance that he has with a WOMAN He treated them with dignity and LOVE. That wasn’t normal for the time. Jesus is the original advocate for WOMEN S RIGHTS.

Men were notoriously disrespectful to their wives and in the middle east most women didn't any rights and for the most part, they still have very little rights. Paul is addressing these things because as Christians we are CALLED to be DIFFERENT in this world. And if Christ, is our example then we are to follow it. But it’s not just an example for MARRIAGE, it is my belief that this is his example for ALL of our relationships.

Do YOU, have that kind of love towards the people around you? Forget your future mate for a moment. Let’s talk about the here and now: do you treat people, in general, as Jesus did the woman at the well? Do you forgive as Jesus did the women caught in the VERY ACT of adultery? DO you show the same kind of HONOR to those around you. This is our example, this is how we are supposed to represent. This is how we are to LOVE in our marriages as well, no matter what comes.


Kristin and I have had the privilege to help many couples through counseling. Things don't have to be falling apart for you to reach out. A lot of times the struggles we face have more to do with having clear and concise communication as well as breaking out of destructive ruts that have formed from many years of practice. Reach out, let us help.

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