The first competition took place in Heaven and began with the desire to be number one. This high-ranking angel was not satisfied with his position; he wanted more. He initiated a competition with Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this resulted in a war with dire consequences for Lucifer and his sympathizers. The losers miss out on their prime spots in Heaven.
Of course, we all know how much of a sore loser Lucifer--now Satan--turned out to be and what his loss meant for all humanity. He is flitting about our earth today, still competing with the Son of God only this time for our very souls. Satan is fighting against Christ for ultimate supremacy over this world and beyond.
Unfortunately, we have found that a flurry of different contests, competitions and games have made their way inside our institutional walls and are sprouting under the pretense that it is just for fun. After all, proponents say, we are only human and in need of enjoyment.
Yet, I cannot find any reasons anywhere in the Bible to support the ideals promoted by competition. If we truly desire to emulate Christ, then it is not necessary for us to participate in activities that war against His very nature. There are many other enjoyable activities that we as Christians can engage in, without destroying our characters in the process.
The definition for the word "competition" is in itself reason for alarm. According to Dictionary.com, the word competition means "rivalry for supremacy, a prize…etc." Or "a contest for some prize, honour, or advantage." The etymology behind the word is directly from the late Latin competere, which is to "strive in common" or "strive together," "to strive, seek, fall upon, rush at, attack." Out of curiosity, I also decided to look into some synonyms for competition, and found words such as: "antagonism," "clash," "contention," and "controversy."
Many of these words that come beside competition clearly demonstrate the essence of what it is about. A winner must be selected, but at what cost? We've all seen it: voices escalate, name-calling ensues, and demeaning looks are tossed to and fro. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all want to win.
One of the more prominent competitions in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is Bible Bowl. On the Facebook page for one regional Bible Bowl, I saw the following description: "Bible Bowl is a ministry designed to promote spiritual growth, knowledge of God's word, fellowship and Christian attitude within a competitive framework."
Now while anything that encourages young people to study God's Word is wonderful, I wonder what "Christian attitude" would be revealed in such a "competitive framework"? I can think of only one attitude that might prevail, but it is far from Christ-like.
As we look deeper into the nature of competition, we see that it delineates lifesized portrait features of Satan. In Isaiah 14, we read of Satan: "For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:13, 14.)
Have you not seen these same prideful characteristics flourish more within ourselves when we compete? Competition promotes getting ahead by any means, yet is this the example of Christ? First and foremost, He was never seeking worldly rank: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain alone" (John 6:15). He frowns upon any contrary spirit that seeks to assert our own abilities or compare ourselves to others in any way.
In John 5:39, 44, Jesus says: "I receive not honour from men...How you can believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?"
In my own life, I have seen the disastrous effects that competition has had on my spirituality. Over the years, I have entered various competitions, one of which was a high school tennis tournament. I remember the snotty attitude I had picked up over coming in third. In my head I was thinking: I wanted to be first. Why wasn’t I first? Just the other day, I entered a writing contest (although I had been impressed not to), and recognized the same haughty spirit resurface within me when I was notified that I had not been selected as a finalist.
This reminds me of the attitude that the disciples had at one point, during one unpleasant exchange with one another. They were arguing over who would be the greatest. Jesus tells them: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).
You see, the principles of Jesus’ kingdom are a marked contrast from the world. It is not about honor, position, or wealth. We are to learn how to serve one another. Service is not something we can successfully learn from any competition.
In Philippians 2:3, the Apostle Paul says: “"There must be no room for rivalry and personal vanity among you, but you must humbly reckon others better than yourselves" (NEB).
So let us keep our sights on the Master. Just like Christ, let our sole desire be to glorify the Father in everything that we do, instead of seeking to exalt ourselves. Meanwhile, the game of life continues and this one is not for fun. The stakes are much higher: It is our own souls that are on the line. But we take comfort in knowing this: Jesus wins.