Friday, August 28, 2009

Competition to the Glory of God?

In his superb book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges has a chapter called "Envy, Jealousy and Related Sins." Out of this chapter a section on competition emerges where he states:

"Let me clarify that I'm not writing against friendly competition but against the competitive spirit that always has to win or be the best. Actually, I believe that healthy competition is good, especially for children and high schoolers, as it can provide an arena in which they can seek to do their best. And this kind of competition is not limited to sports. There is competition at science fairs or among bands or at spelling bees. But in whatever competition, the question the child or teenager and their parents should ask is not 'Did we win?' but 'Did we do our best?'"

Sounds nice but let's be honest, when your son competes on the soccer field you want him to kick the game-winning goal, and when you enter your prize tomato or quilt at the fair, you want to take home the huge, purple ribbon. Right? Talk of 'doing our best' sounds nice, but down deep do we really believe that? Bridges goes on to write:

"Competitiveness is basically an expression of selfishness. It's the urge to win at someone else's expense. It is certainly not loving our neighbor as ourselves. I realize I'm questioning a 'sacred cow' in our culture, because we have elevated competitiveness to a virtue. We teach children directly or by example that it is good to be competitive, that this is the way one gets ahead in the world. I question, however, whether a competitive spirit is a Christian virtue." (pp. 153-155)

At the same time, in Romans 12:10, in an instance of profound irony, Paul seems to link love with competition when he writes, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." Here God seems to command a holy competitiveness - but one limited to bearing the fruit of the Spirit toward the goal of blessing and serving others, rather than triumphing over them.

Your thoughts?

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