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What does the Bible say about competition?

Bible competition
Question: "What does the Bible say about competition?"

Competition is a prevalent activity around the world today. When people think of competition, it is usually in the context of a sporting event; however, competition takes many other forms as well. Competition takes place in both the physical and spiritual realms. Competition is important for the believer if he is to have spiritual victory and faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Jesus competed against Satan in the wilderness, and He defeated Satan with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1–11). As believers, we fight for the souls of lost people by sharing the gospel with them, and we must compete with alternate worldviews to defeat false truth claims.

Competition is also good for communities in the business world. Competition restricts inflation. It forces companies to try to sell their products at a lower price so their competitors do not get all the business. And competition forces companies to make better products in order to earn the customer’s trust. Competition in the business world is healthy as long as sinful strategies are not used, such as lying about a competitor’s product, stealing ideas from a competitor, etc.

It is common in today’s society in some communities to try to eliminate competition. Some children’s sporting organizations play games in which no score is kept. Such policies ignore the benefits of direct competition for children such as teaching them to work hard to achieve a goal—and keeping score is one measurement of success. Of course, children must also be taught to be gracious when they are victorious and to give God the glory, but that is also part of healthy competition.

Even some Christians claim that competition is bad because winning makes the loser feel bad. They often refer to what Paul said, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3–5, HCSB). However, we must also consider that Paul used competitive sporting events as illustrations for spiritual truths. In 1 Corinthians 9:24–27 he uses competitions among runners and boxers to illustrate the importance of spiritual discipline in one’s life. It seems unlikely that the Holy Spirit would inspire the apostle Paul to use something sinful to illustrate how we should have discipline in our lives.

The most extreme form of competition is war. In a battle people are competing for domination, and the consequences are the most severe because people die. Jesus went to the cross to do battle against the effects of sin and death: “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:25–26). In the end we are told that Jesus, at His second coming, will defeat all His enemies: “The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ . . . The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh” (Revelation 19:14–15, 21).

As believers, we are told that we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37); we are to tear down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4); we are to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7); and we are to put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6). These are just a few verses that show us that we are in competition with “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

While the Bible does not forbid competition, it does forbid the heart attitudes that so many have when they do compete. The Scripture is clear that we are to do all things for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). “All things” must include competitions. Eric Liddel, before serving as a missionary in China, ran in the 1924 Summer Olympics. Liddel demonstrated the kind of attitude one should have when competing. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

The worst kind of competition is when people remain God’s enemies by rejecting God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the cross so we could be a part of His kingdom. However, those who reject God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life will be defeated as His enemies and will spend eternity under His wrath. God’s desire is for you to repent and believe in Him so you can receive the gift of eternal life!

Recommended Resource: Excellence: The Heart and Soul in Sports by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

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