Reflections on Jeremiah 45:5

Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.

I heard this verse mentioned by Tim Keller in a sermon. What does it mean? 

There is certainly a strain of thought in the Bible about being excellent at what you do. You should seek great things in one sense. This verse provides the contrast that gives us a more complete understanding. 

The more straightforward point is that ambition that has to do with only us (our plans, our goals, our success) should be renounced. It goes against the grain of serving others and God. Our plans, goals, and successes should be connected to God’s plan. Perhaps a more subtle point, it seems to me, is that we should be willing to sacrifice even good ambition for the sake of God’s larger plan. 

An analogy: say we are on a basketball team. It is obvious that we should work with the team towards the goal of the coach, and therefore of the whole team. To be selfish about our goals to the detriment of the team is straightforwardly dysfunctional.

What about if we are playing one position and focusing on being the best we can be in order to support the team. That’s good. But what if the coach says that we should learn a different position. What if he says he wants us to play on another team, perhaps even another sport? 

To me the heart of this verse is humble submission to the Lord, saying “Your will be done.” Certainly, it seems that if we are doing the best we can to serve and love God, we are doing right. I think the truth that this verse describes is if God teaches us something new he wants us to do, we need to be ready to listen and obey to that as well.