Play to win?

Pretty much everyone I know likes to win. This competitive drive starts in the sandbox, I suppose, and it apparently never dies.

Who’s the fastest on the playground? Who kicks the ball the hardest during recess? Who got the highest score on the test?

Adults do the same thing, only in slightly more “mature” ways. Who made VP the fastest? Who brought in the most clients? Who made the most money? Whose kids are the prettiest, smartest, most athletic, best-dressed?

I think a little good-natured competition between friends is harmless and can encourage camaraderie and clean fun.

But competition has a dark side. Some people never feel fulfilled because there’s always someone who does it better. He made partner three years faster than I did. She got the job I wanted. Why does it seem like they catch all the breaks?

Some people never truly connect with God because they’re too busy running the 21st-century rat race to get to the top of the pile.

It started at the beginning. Cain felt “out-sacrificed” by his brother, which led to envy and culminated in murder.

Leah and Rachel vied for Jacob’s love. Jacob and Esau fought over their father’s birthright. Joseph’s brothers envied and abandoned him. King Saul was furious over David’s successes. The apostles incessantly argued about who was the greatest.

It’s a good thing it only happens “out there” and not in the church.

Or not.

Do we occasionally feel spiritual competitiveness? A preacher envies the more talented, more sought-after speaker at the bigger church across town. A Christian craves more recognition than she’s getting at church, or resents someone else’s prominent position in a church ministry.

Why didn’t the church leadership go with his idea and not mine? Why does no one listen to me?

It’s the same problem we’ve been struggling with since Adam ate the fruit, isn’t it? We’re just a little bit too caught up in self and the earthly and the trivial. We don’t like anyone getting the best of us.

Resist justifying it with the old excuse, “Well, I’m just a competitive person.”

If we’re comparing ourselves to others — at work, school, or church — we need to remind ourselves passionately that our acceptance with God will never be based on how well we perform. Obsessing over competing with other people smacks of self-centeredness and pride and should be avoided drastically by Christians.

We’ll never find real peace there anyway. What happens if you run the race and win the big prize at the end? It’s nothing but fool’s gold.

Peace is found in knowing that God accepts us on the basis of the merits of Christ. We live Christianly because of what He did, not so that we may earn His approval.

Sure, go ahead and enjoy the harmless fun of ribbing each other over the weekend’s games or innocent competitions, but don’t let your competitive spirit cause you to emphasize performance over acceptance. Don’t get caught up in the ridiculous races that so many people around us are stressed out about.

If you’re a disciple of Christ, He’s accepted you into His family, so you can stop trying to beat everyone to the finish line. You’re already there.

Have a great Tuesday!

In Christ,


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