Overcoming Sin through Christ: Competition and Comparing

  Overcoming Sin through Christ

A Comprehensive List of Sins

(Alphabetically Arranged)

Richard Hollerman

The plan of this study is simple.  We will look at a large number of sins, one by one, alphabetically.  We will define the sin, describe it, and comment on it, along with noticing Scripture references on the particular entry.  Some illustrations will be offered along with the description.

Competition and Comparing

We know what it is like in the realm of sports or athletics.  One team fights another team to gain the mastery.  One person seeks to win over another player and gain the title or the award.  One person aims to win the trophy or medal by defeating the opponent. 

In a similar manner, the worldly educational system is arranged for students to compete against other students, thus there is a continual pressure to get better grades than their fellow-students.  Even teachers are told to compete among themselves to produce the best students and highest results. 

In the business world, one company competes against another and one salesman competes against other people on the sales force.  We are all acquainted with the political parties and the high-stakes competition for votes for the desired candidate.  We live in a world of competition, and with the competition there must inevitably be a comparing of one teacher with another, one player with the other players, and one student with the other students.

Can anyone believe that Jesus and the Biblical writers would approve of this ubiquitous practice of competition and the resultant comparing of contestants?  Paul writes of the “deeds of the flesh” to the Galatians, mentioning such sins as enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, and envying—all very common in the realm of competition (Galatians 5:19-21).  The apostle then says, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (v. 26). 

Sports competition, educational competition, and business competition all are likely to stimulate boastfulness, an attitude of challenging one another, and envying the winners.   Paul was well aware of sports competition since he spent many months living in Corinth (Acts 18:1ff) in Greece where the Isthmian Games were held every third year.  Even more popular were the Olympic Games.  In fact, he used athletics as an illustration of the Christian life:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Amazingly, some professing “Christians” try to suggest that Paul’s reference to races and boxing is a way of endorsing these and other sports. One writer goes so far as to say, “Paul must have been an avid sports fan, for he often drew illustrations from these contests.”[1] Far from it, he only uses this illustration to show how self-controlled and diligent we need to be in the life we have in Christ.  There is no indication whatever, in this passage or any other, that he would approve of competitive games and other forms of carnal competition.[2]

Paul says something that has a bearing on the matter of competition and comparing people and results.  He wrote, “We are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).  As Paul says, we should avoid comparing and measuring ourselves to others.  Pride, arrogance, and boasting are too often the result of winning.  Self-rejection, self-loathing, inferior feelings, envy, jealousy, and anger are too often the result of losing.  We should not want either—regardless of the high value that the world places on competition in all spheres of life.

In competition and in comparing our appearance, our grades, our achievements, and our skills, we seem to be saying, “Look at me. Look at what I’ve done!  Look at what I’ve accomplished!”  This self-focus is the very opposite of the way of God, that is to regard the other as “more important than” ourselves, and looks for the “interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).  Paul asks, “Who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).  We are not to exalt over others because of our assumed “superiority.”  We are to realize that any achievement we have has only been given to us; we are not personally responsible.  We are to walk in humility and not the pride that competition often brings (James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).

Competition and comparing bring with them many different sins (mentioned in this book), such as envy, jealousy, self-rejection, pride, arrogance, boasting, selfishness, lack of love, seeking first place, lack of compassion, and others.  Let’s run from all of this while pursuing genuine love that seeks the welfare of others.

 



[1] Fred Fisher, Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher, 1975), p. 150.

[2] See our thoroughly-researched book, The Question of Sports? (Rod and Staff  Publishers, P.O. Box 3, Crockett, KY 41413-0003).

 

 

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