Is Competition a Biblical Value?
By Paul Dyck
on Monday, July 31, 2023
F.B. Meyer, the great Bible teacher and pastor, while pastoring a church began to notice attendance was suffering. He asked his congregation why. A member volunteered, "It is because of this new church down the road. The young preacher has everyone talking and many are going to hear him speak." The young preacher’s name was Charles Spurgeon. Meyer exhorted the entire congregation to join him and go participate in seeing this "move of God" as he described it to his congregation. "If this be happening, then God must be at work."
There is never any competition on God’s team! There's never any elbowing to the front of the line. No body checking on the boards. No gloating that God’s team won.
There’s no preening or boasting about our abilities, our looks, our position, or our wealth.
Is competition a beautiful God given attribute or is it an evil? Does God encourage us to compete with others? I can find many examples in scripture about giving in and caring for others, not about winning or being right!
When We Seek Our Own Way
Several years ago, the city of Abbotsford witnessed a horrible act. The Public Works department staff dumped chicken manure and feathers over the tent camps set up by homeless people. Really? That's the way we're going to treat the poor, downtrodden, ill and defenceless people?
A couple of decades ago, the leadership of a large church asked their senior pastor to step down. He proceeded to lambaste the leadership and the church, tearing the church apart. He went on public Christian TV to share his views.
How are these competitive actions?
We seek to get our own way, no matter the cost.
We defend our names at the cost of unity within the body of Christ.
And the watching world wonders why we fight each other when we preach love!
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2a)
One Sunday morning in the church where I pastored, a family came to me and shared how some of their friends had left our church to go to another church: a "competitor church". They were completely distracted by their news.
Does the Bible encourage us to compete with fellow believers? Is there such a thing as a competitor church?
The love passage, one of the greatest passages in the Bible, is all about giving in and caring for each other rather than winning or being right.
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” (1 Cor. 13:4-5, emphasis added).
Jesus' answer to the question: “What is the greatest and most important commandment?” was, "Love God and Love Others!"
In Philippians, it says:
"…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Phil. 2:2-3, emphasis added)
We are to serve others, especially the unlovely and those we would naturally compete against.
More Thoughts On Competition
Our competitive spirit makes us want to be seen as being right. When we are right it is only because God made it so. It's not our own wisdom or greatness, rather it is what He has done in us and through us.
God Almighty is not competitive. He demonstrates unity with His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit, at all times. He reminds us that it is not a contest between our interaction with Him and other believers.
And get this! He calls us His favourites. We immediately think of one person over the other, but that's not the case with God. He wants everyone to be His favourite. He wants a personal relationship with everyone.
When an corporate executive is asked to resign, they are (usually) restricted from competing as they have signed a "no-compete" clause. Why? It is in our nature to use what we have for our own advantage, especially if we feel we've been “bested”. Instead of seeking our own advantage, the church is called to encourage one another.
"...that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith..." (Romans 1:12)
In sports someone wins, and others lose. But when someone is won to Christ, the only loser is Satan.
Fear and jealousy drive us to compete.
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18a)
And who do we find ourselves competing with so often? Leadership. Why? We don't like their leadership. We don't want to follow. We don't want to pay the price we're being encouraged to pay. Yet, competition with leadership is rebellion. (Read Numbers 12 and 1 Cor. 10:1-13)
Competition with each other is idolatry. We cannot be competitors and live as Christ taught. In 1 Corinthians, it says "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Cor. 10:24), and also “Just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” (1 Cor. 10:33)
So why not compete?
Why should we do this? Why should we NOT compete?
For His glory! For His name!
And besides, He is able to accomplish far greater things than we can. He is the One who defends us.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Oh yes … the family leaving our church to go to another Bible believing church? That's not going to the competition at all! That's merely an extension of our campus! We're all on the same side!
*We believe this article, originally published in 2019, is still relevant and vital for today, so we have updated and republished with permission.
Paul Dyck is the former National Team Leader and now an Ambassador for the MORE Network - a Canada-wide collaborative supporting cross-cultural workers & MKs (Missionary Kids) in transition. Paul fills the role of Ministry Ambassador and Champion across Canada, working with church & mission leaders involved with caring for cross-cultural workers & MKs. Paul is an MK and has experience in Member Care, Pastoring, Banking and Business Leadership. Paul & his wife Carol life in Abbotsford, BC.