All of our school and working life most of us have had to compete.  We do it for grades, honors, salary, pride and politics.  Sadly some even compete with other parents through their children.  Do beauty pageants for three-year-olds sound familiar?  Then, of course, there are competitive sports of all sorts.  Strangely more acrimony and even violence is seen among the fans than in the players.  Certainly there are still friendly competitions between adults and kids.  Sportsmanship is dying but is not dead yet.  One can even compete with oneself to make a better score in games and puzzles.  However, one needs plenty of self-control to keep from turning to resentment and blame when we lose.

It appears that competition started early in history and led to the first murder when Cain resented Abel’s more pleasing sacrifice to God. (Gen 4: 2-11) Although Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, was called a prophetess, (Ex 15:20) she and Aaron fell prey to the temptation of envy and competition with Moses.  They said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?”  The Lord was very angry and caused leprosy to fall on her.  Only because Moses pled with the Lord was it reduced to 7 days. (Nu 12:1-15)

We remember many other competitions in both the Old and New Testaments: King Saul and David (1 Sam 18:6-9) Joab and Abner (2 Sam 3:27) David and Absalom (2 Sam 15: 13-14) James and John versus the other apostles (Lk 9:46) Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:39-40).  In all of these cases each person wanted to impose his will over the others.  Jesus’ prescription for all cases of ego is given in Luke 9:48.  Using a small child as a visual aid, he said, “…for he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Aren’t we happy that the Christian journey is not a competition of one against the other?  Many, many scriptures tell us we are to support our brethren even to the point of giving up some of our “rights.” (Rom 14:21) A great secular lesson for all of us might be what often occurs in the Special Olympics when one contestant who sees another fall stops to help him/her and both continue together to the finish line.

—-Jim Bailey