There is another “do nothing from” statement in Philippians 2:3. We’ve considered the idea of “selfish ambition yesterday, today we’ll look at the second one: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit…” The older 11 big shottranslations use the phrase “Vain glory” to translate the Greek word. Although they mean the same thing, conceit seems to be a better word for our generation. A conceited person will never get anywhere because he thinks he’s already there. Conceit is to overestimate one’s status or situation. Conceit knocks others down to build itself up. It parades itself before others to whom it considers itself superior. It means to deck “oneself out with a façade that has nothing behind it.” Conceit prods us on to live for the applause of others. The acceptance and approval of man is more important than the approval of God. Conceit leads us to appropriate for ourselves that which belongs only to God.

I remember a heavy weight champion named Muhammad Ali. He was a mouthy man who really liked to put on a show. According to Life magazine, Mohammed Ali spoke of himself before his 1971 fight with Joe Frazier thus. He said, “There seems to be some confusion. We’re gonna clear this confusion up on March 8. We’re gonna decide once and for all who is king! There’s not a man alive who can whup me. (He jabs the air half a dozen blinding lefts.) I’m too smart. (He taps his head.) I’m too pretty. (He lifts his head high in profile, turning as a bust on a pedestal.) I AM the greatest. I AM the king! I should be a postage stamp—that’s the only way I could get licked!” By the way, Ali lost that fight to Frazier!

An article titled “The Art of Being a Big Shot” was written by a very prominent Christian businessman named Howard Butt. Among many other insightful things he said were these words: “It is my pride that makes me independent of God. It’s appealing to me to feel that I am the master of my fate, that I run my own life, call my own shots, go it alone. But that feeling is my basic dishonesty. I can’t go it alone. I have to get help from other people, and I can’t ultimately rely on myself. I’m dependent on God for my next breath. It is dishonest of me to pretend that I’m anything but a man—small, weak, and limited. So, living independent of God is self-delusion. It is not just a matter of pride being an unfortunate little trait and humility being an attractive little virtue; it’s my inner psychological integrity that’s at stake. When I am conceited, I am lying to myself about what I am. I am pretending to be God, and not man. My pride is the idolatrous worship of myself. And that is the national religion of Hell!”