I had an enlightening conversation with a friend of mine yesterday. He is a fellow mathematics major at my university, and a Christian whom I admire. We were discussing how people handle being gifted with ability. We both have our share of intellectual ability (he carries a 4.0 GPA; mine is 3.99) and creative ability (he is a musician; I am a writer). I said that, while I thank God often for His blessings (how lucky am I? I get to do math everyday!), on most days, I find myself praying silently for God to help me avoid being competitive.
My worst moments happen when a professor returns graded tests. My eyes will slide involuntarily to the side to check the scores on my classmates’ tests. I often check my friend’s score if I can. I admitted to him during our conversation that if my grade is better, I feel better. He told me he always tries to check my score and is more comfortable when his is better. We laughed because our scores are usually within two points of each other’s. If I have a 93 percent, he’ll have a 95. We both, however, covet the upper percentile. Neither of us mind other A students in the class, as long as our own A is higher.
We talked about how comparing makes us miserable. I even admitted to stagnating for years before I accepted Christ because I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be the best at whatever I tried that I never tried to do anything.
The conversation helped me to affirm that I am right to ask God’s help to overcome my human inclination toward competitiveness. Comparing is one of the most dangerous behaviors we can exhibit. It leads to jealousy, bitter feelings, and hatred. It prevents us from reaching out to others and shields our hearts from generosity and compassion.
I thought of how many times God has told us directly through scripture that we should avoid competitive behavior. It’s in the Ten Commandments; Thou shall not covet. Whether it be thy neighbor’s wife or donkey, or thy classmate’s math grade, covetousness is bad.
I spent some time searching for other places in scripture in which God has warned us to look out for competitive behavior.
All of the following verses are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. – Romans 12:3
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! – Romans 12:16
This is what the LORD says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. – Jeremiah 9:23
What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. – Isaiah 5:21
For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. – 1 John 2:16
In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud. –
1 Corinthians 13:4
There are many more instances of God exhorting us toward humility and away from boasting, pride, comparing, and haughtiness. These are just a few of the ones I found in ten minutes with a concordance. God is serious about this prideful behavior! Competitiveness belongs to the world, not to the Kingdom of God.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2.
God’s will for you is good and pleasing and perfect. There is grace and comfort in that promise, peace and rest from struggles for worldly things. In God’s will, there is perfect joy. That is what I pray each day for, not for success at being in the world, but success in following His will.