What then, some one will say, is a Christian never allowed to desire a prominent position in society? The Christian is not forbidden to wish for anything that is good. He may desire to occupy even a high and distinguished office, if he feels himself capable of taking it: but how is he to desire it? As if he thought himself especially destined to the functions of such or such a high calling? That would be a degree of self-esteem and of pride quite unpardonable. Or as if he thought the aim of his existence utterly missed, in the event of his wishes not being realised; and so fret and worry himself? No: that would be indeed, not to understand the bearing and the end of his life. Or is the Christian to wish for merit or distinction among men, as if all means to obtain it were lawful or allowable? But, the world itself would not bear such ambition and arrogance. What then is allowed to the Christian as regards honours and marks of merit? He is allowed to prepare and fit himself for the event of his being found worthy of a post of honour; when he would bring out and perfect every kind of ability given him of God; bring it to bear on rightful objects for the public good; and make proof of activity, of honesty, and of love, for the weal of others. He may labour at all that, as much as he likes: all that is praiseworthy and acceptable not only to men but also to God. But to seek ardently and at all costs a high position or office, especially through artifice, double dealing, treachery or deceit, and then to murmur when that object is not gained, is nought but meanness of heart and recklessness; and all that is a work that has nothing Christian in it.
From Meditations for Every Wednesday and Friday in Lent: On a Prayer of S. Ephraem, our free book for March.