Monday, February 9, 2015

Unhealthy Competition

Peyton Reed – Sr. – Valparaiso H.S.
As I wrote in a previous article,  we must keep Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God. We must also be careful not to let the devil outwit us in the process and cause us to miss the very kingdom that we are striving to enter.  One area he uses is competition, especially between Christians.

Brother Yong-Doo Kim wrote in his fourth book, “My wife and I always tried to compete for the Lord’s attention. Our competition for His attention caused jealousy and envy between us. When I was a child, my mother used to carry my infant baby brother on her back and she carried a big bundle on her head as we went to the market place. As my mother walked through the narrow alley in the countryside, I would follow right behind her in short steps as I cried and grizzled. I reminisced of my childhood as I walked the narrow path into hell. As I glimpsed at my wife from time to time, I would notice her humming a song through her nose. It appeared as though Jesus was enjoying the situation. The Lord and my wife intimately dialogued to one another as they looked at each other face to face and moved forward. My church members with opened spiritual eyes would tease me. ‘Pastor, you must be very jealous, right?’” (Baptized by Blazing Fire, Book 4)

He said, “People who possess gifts are more inclined and exposed to the forces of evil spirits. They are relentlessly attacked ever more. The devil will make the people with gifts targets. The devil and his forces are greatly attracted to these types of spiritual areas and taste. They will intensely attack. The devil will focus and concentrate a plan of attack. The devil begins by stimulating the consciousness of people. He will plant thoughts of overtaking others, getting ahead, competition, and eventually planting the seed of greed. The greed to win others. As a result, men, women, people of all ages become deluded or degenerated continuously by the indiscriminate attacks of the evil spirits.” (Baptized by Blazing Fire, Book 5)

King Saul's Jealousy of David
This same kind of problem arose between King Saul and David. We read in Scripture:

“So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants. It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.’ Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’ Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on. Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul's hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David escaped from his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, for the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. David was prospering in all his ways for the LORD was with him. When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him.” (1Sa 18:5-15)

From this passage we can see that after David defeated Goliath, he became great and won the favor of the people.  For the Lord was with him and caused him to prosper in all his ways.  That is what made Saul very angry.  He was displeased to hear the women giving David praise for greater achievements than he himself had accomplished. Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on. In fact, when Saul allowed that sin to operate in his life, it opened a gap for an evil spirit to come mightily upon Saul, which caused him to be raving mad in his house and to seek to take David’s life. 

Warning Against Sins That Keep You From Heaven
The apostle Paul wrote: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Gal 5:19-21)

I would like to focus on three words in this passage: jealousy, envy, and strife.  First we will look at the Greek word meanings and then the English dictionary definitions for each word.

The word “jealousy” comes from the Greek word “zelos,” meaning “properly heat, that is, (figuratively) ‘zeal’ (in a favorable sense, ardor; in an unfavorable one, jealousy, as of a husband [figuratively of God], or an enemy, malice): - emulation, envy (-ing), fervent mind, indignation, jealousy, zeal.” (Strong’s)

“1. That passion of peculiar uneasiness which arises from the fear that a rival may rob us of the affection of one whom we love, or the suspicion that he has already done it; or it is the uneasiness which arises from the fear that another does or will enjoy some advantage which we desire for ourselves. A man's jealousy is excited by the attentions of a rival to his favorite lady. A woman's jealousy is roused by her husband's attentions to another woman. The candidate for office manifests a jealousy of others who seek the same office. The jealousy of a student is awakened by the apprehension that his fellow will bear away the palm of praise. In short, jealousy is awakened by whatever may exalt others, or give them pleasures and advantages which we desire for ourselves. Jealousy is nearly allied to envy, for jealousy, before a good is lost by ourselves, is converted into envy, after it is obtained by others. (e.g., Jealousy is the apprehension of superiority.); 2. Suspicious fear or apprehension.” (Note: This means the fear of a belief that is founded on sufficient evidence to give preponderation to the mind, but insufficient to induce certainty). (Webster’s Dictionary).

The Bible tells us that it was out of jealousy or envy that the Pharisees had handed Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified (Mk 15:10).  They saw the multitudes who followed Him and listened to Him. They saw the miracles He did.  And they were jealous of Him.  Just as the jealousy that King Saul had for David caused him to try and take David's life, so it was with the Pharisees with respect to Jesus.

The word strife comes from the Greek word “eris,” meaning “Of uncertain affinity; a quarrel, that is, (by implication) wrangling: - contention, debate, strife, variance.” (Strong’s)

According to Webster’s dictionary, one of the definitions of strife is: “1. Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts. Strife may be carried on between students or between mechanics.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

For example, a student can think to herself, "My classmate is always getting excellent scores, so I have to be as good or better than her."  Or "She is such a gifted artist and is always receiving accolades for her artwork, I must outdo her and create more impressive artwork."  They are always trying to "one-up" the other person. 

This can even occur in spiritual aspects of life.  For example, a young man can strive to pray as much or more than his brother in Christ.  If he sees that his brother prays for one hour, then he prays for at least an hour or more.  If his brother prays for two hours, then he will pray for two or more hours. And so it is.

But it is not just the quantity of your prayer that matters.  It is the quality of your prayers. Our Lord Jesus told a parable about two men who went to pray.

"And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"  (Luk 18:9-14)

Both men could have prayed in the temple for the same amount of time, let's say one hour.  However, only one man returned home justified.  God was pleased with one and not the other, even though they prayed in the same place for the same period of time.

You can be like the Pharisee and pray for just as long as the other person beside you. But if your heart is not right with God, if you don't have love, if you seek to put yourself above that other person, if you trust in your righteousness, if you seek to be superior to them, and you view them with contempt, then you will not be pleasing God at all.  In fact, he may be pleased with the other person, rather than you, even though you pray just as much or more than them. So watch your attitude and be careful. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

EN'VY, v.t.
The word envying in Paul’s letter to the Galatians comes from the Greek word “phthonos,” meaning “ill will (as detraction), that is, jealousy (spite): - envy.” (Strong’s)

According to Webster’s dictionary, one of the definitions of envy is: “1. To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.”  Webster’s also gives the Latin origin of the word envy: “L. invideo, in and video, to see against, that is, to look with enmity.”

As I stated in my article Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, the apostle Paul said, “I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:21b).

In that same passage he said, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal 5:15).

This can even find its way into the heart of God's ministers. If you are a pastor, don't envy another pastor, because he has a larger church with more members or a better building. Be content with what you have. (Also see Popularity of the Gospel and Persecuted or Popular?).

Regarding One Another as Better Than Ourselves
So what kind of attitude should we have toward one another? Paul said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:22-26).

He also said, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:3)

And he wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Php 2:3-4).

If we are all regarding one another as better than ourselves, then we will be lifting each other up, helping each other to reach heaven, and the Lord will be pleased.

Members of One Body
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.” (1Co 12:12-31)

We are all members of one body, the Body of Christ.  We need each other!  Not all of us are called to be an eye or a mouth.  Some are called to be a hand or foot.  And we should be content with our identity in the Body. We should be satisfied with who God made us to be. Each member has it’s own unique purpose, and that does not make it better than the others.

For example, even utensils have their own unique purpose. A spoon has its purpose and a fork has its own purpose. There are times when we need a spoon, like when we need to scoop honey or eat soup.  In those instances a fork will not do.  But what if the spoon envied the fork, because it was used so much more and for such important tasks like eating meat and potatoes. Likewise, the butter knife is so important for tasks like spreading butter or peanut butter on our bread.  But what if the butter knife was jealous, because the steak knife was so sharp and could cut through the toughest meats?  Not everyone can be the sharpest knife, but we all have our own purpose for which God created us, and let us be content with that.  Let’s walk with excellence in the purpose God has called us to, not wishing we could be like someone else.

The More Excellent Way 
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he wanted to show them a more excellent way, which is the way of love.  He wrote:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Co 13:1-13)

We should earnestly desire the greater gifts, as Paul said. However, let's be careful that in our pursuit of the greater spiritual gifts that we always continue to walk in love. Otherwise, you can be a very gifted person and it will profit you nothing.

Motivated by Others
Paul wrote to the Hebrews, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Heb 10:24). There is nothing wrong with being motivated by others to do the right thing and to please the Lord, as long as we are walking in love and not in jealousy, envy, or strife.  Often times we are motivated to excellence by the godly actions of others.  When you see someone living in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, it should encourage you to do the same. It is not only with words that we encourage one another, but also by our actions. Therefore, if your brother or sister's walk with God spurs you on toward love and good deeds, that is a healthy thing.

Divine Revelations about Sports
Finally, I would like to say a word specifically about sports. These sins that will keep you from heaven, including jealousy, strife, and envy, are especially evident in the realm of professional and collegiate sports, where there is hatred, anger, brawling, envy, greed and covetousness, which is idolatry. Both the players and the fans are guilty.

In my article Vision of Hell by Emmanuel Agyarko, I wrote that in this vision, Emmanuel saw people in hell for involvement in the occult.  This included many famous and not so famous football players. He also saw Marc-Vivien Foé, the Cameroonian footballer who died during a football match in France in 2003.  He even saw the fans on their way to hell, because many of them were involved in idolatry.

Putting it All Together
If you are always striving to be better than someone else or to be like him or her, you will miss what God has in store for you. Don't covet people's spiritual gifts. If you are envying others, being jealous of them, and striving with them, you will surely miss heaven. This can even happen with respect to how you view yourself in relation to the spirituality of others, such as their prayer lives. It also applies to every area of life, including ministry, Church life, academics, fine arts, business, and sports. 

This sort of unhealthy competition or spirit of "one-upmanship" should not even be named among God's holy people. Beware of any such sinful attitude that may creep into your heart. Those who live like that do not inherit the kingdom of God. So let us be completely humble and determine in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in love, which is the greatest of all. It’s the more excellent way.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Photo of runner used with permission by Indiana Runner.

Author's note: You may also want to read my other posts called, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Pressing on Toward the Goal, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Taking Heaven by Force, Holy Living in a Perverted World , Salvation with Fear and Trembling, The Obedience of Faith, Doing What is Right, Faith Works!, The Apostasy Parables, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth? You may visit the Seeking the Lord Directory, and also find a collection of my most popular blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.


  1. Is playing soccer a sin even if you don't make a idol of it. I already put away chasing after professional leagues because it is worldly to want to go into that but is playing it for my school bad? Or is playing for fun bad?

    1. Some godly Christians believe it is not a sin to play soccer for fun. Others believe it is a sin to play soccer. Because of the competitive nature of sports, even when played for fun, I personally don't advise anyone to go play sports like that. Even something like chess can be competitive and leave people feeling hurt, because they lost, while another feels good because they won.


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