“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
The sports world lost 2 legends this week: Pat Summitt and Buddy Ryan. Summitt achieved incredible success in her 38 years as the women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. In fact, Summitt became the winningest coach in Division I college basketball. Even more, she lifted women’s basketball from obscurity to prominence.
Buddy Ryan achieved fame as the defensive coach for the professional football Chicago Bears. His defensive achievements for the Bears became so prominent that Ryan was nicknamed the “Monster of the Midway.” Ryan viewed the game of football as warfare, and told his players not to wait until opposing players did something to them, but to strike first.
I think you can see a dominant character quality in both Pat Summitt and Buddy Ryan. They were highly competitive.
This week as I listened to news reports about their deaths, I kept hearing about how competitive they were. These reports made me think. Is being a competitive person a good thing or a bad thing? Since I am a Christian I also wondered, Is it a Christian quality to be competitive? This blog post is my attempt to deal with the issue of competitiveness.
Most of us are probably uncomfortable with feelings of competitiveness. I know I am. As a kid, I never enjoyed competitive sports. Though, I can be competitive with myself. During my 20s to late 40s I was a jogger/runner. I kept up with my PB for a 10K run (personal best time), and I tried to beat myself each time I ran a 10K. So, I suppose everyone has a competitive streak inside.
Competition shows up in different ways. From competing for a job to competing for the attention of someone of the opposite sex to competing by wanting our favorite sports team to be Number 1.
The negative view of competition says we can push our children and ourselves too hard. Constantly wanting to be first and to be Number 1 can’t be good for us. And we never appreciate the lessons that come from losing. Highly-competitive persons can get into a mode of winning at all costs. If we are too competitive we risk becoming poor losers.
The positive view of competition says it promotes personal growth. Who of us would grow and stretch ourselves if we didn’t have rivals? In addition, competition makes us goal-oriented, and prepares us for the real world, a world filled with competition. The positive view says that life is more interesting and fun when some competition is involved.
Again, but what about the issue of competition as it relates to the Christian life? Should Christians be competitive people? Should they avoid being competitive?
We do have in the Bible the words of Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Philippians 3:14 does tell us to “Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called” us. And Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Of course these Bible verses all refer to doing our best for the Lord, as well as doing our best to achieve Christlikeness. These verses don’t have anything to do with competing for a job or competing on the football field.
We certainly don’t want to be competitive like, “My church is better than your church.” Or “I know more Bible verses than you.”
I turn your attention to the words of Jesus in Matthew 20 (you’ll find these words at the beginning of this post). Jesus taught that our goal as His followers should not be to be Number 1 or “the best,” but rather to have a servant’s heart..
Yet note again what Jesus said, “Whoever would be great among you.” The idea is that times are when we want to be great, when we want to do well, when we want to achieve. I don’t think Jesus condemned the desire for honest achievement or the aspiration to be our best self. Nothing wrong with this at all.
But I’m thinking that when it comes to competition as you and I see it played out today, a Christian should want to be his or her best for Jesus’ sake. That’s the best kind of competition, and what’s more, it brings us hope.
What are your thoughts about Christians and competition. Use the “comments” portion to share your opinions.