How know I if thou shoulds’t me raise
That I would there raise Thee?
Perhaps great places and great praise
Do not so well agree. —George Herbert
“I wrote something along this line to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, did not welcome my counsel” (3John 1:9).
If God chooses to exalt us we should be grateful, but we should never seek exaltation. "Do you seek greatness for yourself?” Jeremiah asks. “Don’t seek it” (Jeremiah 45:5).
Selfish ambition is a ruinous trait, one that dulls our spiritual senses. "Ambition dulls the prophet-eye; It casts the unseen out,” George MacDonald said (The Mother of Zebedee’s Children).
There's a remarkably relevant New Testament text describing a day on which the Apostles fell into a debate over the question, "Who's the greatest of us all" (Mark 9:33-37). Later that evening, having reached their destination, Jesus asked his disciples what they were arguing about along the way. They lapsed into silence, ashamed of the question, as anyone should be.
Jesus then gave his disciples the secret of true greatness: If you want to be great make it your ambition to love and serve those that cannot advance your ends, that have no power or influence at all.
Just then a dirty, street urchin ran through the room—or so I imagine the scene. Jesus, caught him by his shirttail, wrestled him onto His lap and cradled him in his arms close to His heart.1 "This is greatness," he said.
1. Gk. enagkalisamenos: lit. "holding him in the crook of his arm"