Sin does not only break our relationship with God but it also tarnishes our relationships with people. The nature of sin points everything inward and it causes us to be selfish and self-centered.

Rather than living to build God’s Kingdom, we are driven to build our own kingdoms. Sometimes we even disguise what we do in the name of the Lord, but when truly tested, it was ultimately all about ourselves.

And one of the ways I believe this is manifested is through a spirit of competition. The spirit of competition reveals the ungodly desires and selfishness that lives in our hearts.  

We know we are called to love, encourage and support one another but deep inside there lies a desire to compete and win at the sake of someone else’s loss. This is what I want to call the Spirit of Competition.

This is seen all throughout the Bible. We see it in siblings, friendships and even kings called by God to lead a nation. Cain internally competes with Abel (Gen 4:1-16), Saul competes with David (1 Sam 18) and James and John compete with the rest of the disciples (Mk 10:35-37). Some may think this is just the natural inclination of being “human” but I believe this is the natural inclination of the sinful heart.

So I write this post to shed some light to what the Lord has been teaching me. Things He has been revealing in my own heart and things I see in the hearts of others.

Here are some ways you can know if you are allowing the Spirit of Competition to rule in your hearts:

Are You Jealous of Others?

It is clear between the interaction with Saul and David that Saul was jealous of David. He was jealous of the fame that David was getting. Why? Because more fame for David means less fame for Saul. “And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’ And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him” (1 Sam 18:7-8).

It was as if Saul perceived that David was taking from him what Saul believed ought to be his. Once we give into jealously, it leads us to competition – an ungodly competition that is driven to exalt ourselves above people and ultimately, above God. Do you get jealous often? Are you jealous of specific individuals?

Can You be Happy for Others? 

There are some people who dig and dig to find reasons to discredit others for what God is doing in their lives. Sometimes these accusations are internally constructed by their own selfish thoughts and reasoning.

It’s an internal digging that satisfies a sinful appetite in our hearts. We begin to accuse people of why they don’t deserve what they have. When someone else gets promoted, rather than celebrating their success and break through, we come up with excuses to why it’s unfair. There is an ability to be happy for others. We look for reasons to discredit individuals.

In doing so, we perceive that we have secured our position. What causes this? I have come to realize most people who struggle with “digging” have a deep sense of insecurity and hurt from the past.

They are often times looking to prove themselves at the cost of others. They desire to prove themselves because they equate value and worth from what they do rather than from knowing their value in Christ.

Do You Take Joy in Other's Failures?

I have met people who find joy in other people’s failures. They cannot be happy for others. When someone else gets fired, fails, or does not reach their goals, they find a sense of unwarranted joy.

When they hear about the shortcomings of their friends, they find a sense of sinful satisfaction in their hearts.

Why? Because we measure ourselves to those around us. When someone else fails, we use that to measure ourselves. Their failure means our success.

We are again, ultimately competing with those around us. This is not the heart of Jesus nor the message of the gospel.

When someone else fails, we use that to measure ourselves. Their failure means our success. We are again, ultimately competing with those around us. This is not the heart of Jesus nor the message of the gospel.

So here is the question: How do we overcome this?  How do we move from the Spirit of Competition to loving and serving others? We have to look to God.

Know Your God

When we begin to compete with others and feel the emotions (i.e. jealousy) mentioned above, it is because we forget who our God is.

Our God did not make us to compete with each other. No, God made us to support and encourage one another.

We don’t need to measure ourselves with others if we know the nature and character of God. Rather than looking to those around us, we have to look to God who created us.

Cain began to compete with Abel because Cain forgot that God loved him just as much. He forgot that God had plans for him and would receive him no differently from Abel. If only he could have just removed his eyes off of Abel and put his eyes on God he would never have felt jealously towards his brother. Saul could have overcome jealously if he remembered his life isn’t about his fame but about God’s fame.

In both narratives, you realize that Abel and David were not competing against Cain and Saul. Why? Because they knew their God. They didn’t have to prove themselves. Abel didn’t give an offering to God to compete with Cain. Abel gave an offering to God because he knew God loved Him. 

David didn’t kill Goliath because he wanted to be praised by man. David killed Goliath because his passion and zeal for God outweighed his fear of man.

They knew their God. Their identities and values came from their relationship with God.

Remember Jesus’ Example

Until the very end, the twelve disciples continued to compete with one another. James and John asked Jesus if they could sit at Jesus’ right and left hand when He restores the Kingdom (Mk 10:35-38). The other disciples get infuriated at the requests of James and John. Why? Because deep down they all wanted that same position. Ultimately, they were all competing with one another.

But what is Jesus’ response? He tells them in Mark 10:43-45:

But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus breaks off the Spirit of Competition among the twelve by telling them to serve one another. The disciples wanted to lead, but He showed them to lead is actually to serve.

He further illustrates this message in John 13 by washing the feet of the very disciples that were going to betray Him. He shows the disciples how much He loves them. To the point where He, the King, the only One who deserves to be served, begins to serve them.

How does Jesus break off the Spirit of Competition? He overwhelms the disciples with a humble love. Such a beautiful love as seen in John 13:4-5; 12-15:

Jesus rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him…Do you not understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.’

Wow. Wow. Wow. What a beautiful picture. Nothing will break off the Spirit of Competition like the love and example of Jesus. Can you imagine what was going through the minds’ of the disciples? “The Messiah?  The King? My Rabbi is washing my feet? What type of King is this? What type of God is this?”

May we remember Jesus is not only our Savior, but also our example.  Too many Christians looks to Him as Savior but we must also see Him as Lord. May we follow after the pattern of our Lord and Savior and live to love and serve others!