Introduction: This is
a study of one word in the Greek New Testament:
Eritheia. There are other words in the Greek New Testament also
translated strife, but this word is unique enough to study on its own. A
LINGUISTIC KEY TO THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT provides this
. . .selfishness, selfish ambition. The word is related to a noun_________________________
which originally meant “a day laborer” and was used esp. of those
cutting and binding wheat or of those who were spinners or
weavers. The word later denotes the attitude of those who worked
for wages and particularly it denoted a self-seeking pursuit of
political office by unfair means. It then came to be used of “party
squabbles,” of the jockeying for position and the intriguing for
place and power. Finally, it meant “selfish ambition,” the ambition
which has no conception of service and whose only aims are profit
and power (s. BAG; TDNT; GEW I, 558; NTW, 39ff.) (p. 549).
1) Romans 2:8 - “but those
who are selfishly ambitious (eritheia) and do
not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation”
(the parenthesis is mine).
1) Selfish ambition and truth are opposites. 2)
Selfish ambition leads to aggression and power oriented mental attitudes
and actions of unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
2) 2 Corinthians 12:20 - “For
I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may
find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not
what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife (eritheia), jealousy,
angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (the
parenthesis is mine).
1) Strife (eritheia - selfish ambition) heads a list of
various sins wracking the Corinthian congregation. 2) The sins on this list
are aggression and power oriented. 3) Compare 12:21.
3) Galatians 5:19-20 - “19Now
the deeds of the flesh are evident, which
are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities,
strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes (eritheia - selfish ambition),
1) Disputes (eritheia - selfish ambition) is one of the
“deeds of the flesh.” 2) Disputes is one of many aggression and power
oriented mental attitudes in verses 19-21a.
4) Philippians 1:17 - “the
former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition
(eritheia), rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress
in my imprisonment” (the parenthesis is mine).
Selfish ambition, in some preachers of Christ, was the
motivation for attacking Paul during his time of suffering.
5) Philippians 2:3 - “Do nothing
from selfishness (eritheia - selfish
ambition) or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you
regard one another as more important than himself” (the parenthesis is
Conclusion: 1) Selfish ambition is opposite to humility. 2) All forms of selfish ambition are to be avoided (“do nothing”).
6) James 3:14 - “But if you
have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition
(eritheia) in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth”
(the parenthesis is mine).
1) ‘Selfish ambition’ relates to arrogance. 2) ‘Selfish
ambition’ and truth are opposed. 3) Compare the ‘selfish ambition’ of
verse 14 with the ‘gentle wisdom’ of verse 13. 4) Compare the ‘selfish
ambition’ of verse 14 with “earthly, natural, demonic” in verse 15.
7) James 3:16 - “For where
jealousy and selfish ambition(eritheia) exist,
there is disorder and every evil thing” (the parenthesis is mine).
‘Selfish ambition’ is not a mild annoyance, it is evil!
Compare ‘selfish ambition’ with 3:15b.