Read Philippians 2:1-11
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (James 3:16 NRSV)
Jamie Dornan, an Northern Irish actor known for his role as Sheriff Graham Humbert in the ABC series “Once Upon a Time”, is quoted as saying that “everyone likes a bit of competition.” In our Western society, and in world history as a whole, competition has been a driving force. There is a truth that we all love a bit of competition, as it breeds creativity, it pushes us to excel, it demands of us our very best, and it has propelled the human race forward throughout the millenia; however, at what cost? As a result of competition, and the desire to compete, some inevitably come out on top as the winners and many come out on the bottom as the losers. As much as competition has driven the human race forward, it has set many in the human race back. Just look at the results of competition including, but not limited to, abject poverty, famine, disease, lack of medical supplies, lack of natural resources, wars, etc. This brings us to Pope Francis I’s 15th ailment of the church.
Ailment of the Church #15: Competition. While Pope Francis named his 15th ailment of the church “seeking worldly profit and showing off”, I think this can best be summarized as competition. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ preached about the coming of the Kingdom of God and the reversal of competition, where the first would be last and the last would be first. This economy of heaven is supposed to be reflected by Christ’s church; however, the reality is that we find that the church is often the breeding ground of competition and that we much more reflect the kingdoms of this world far more than we reflect the Kingdom of God.
Throughout Christian history, the church has splintered and divided. Each splinter church has become its own denomination and each denomination has found itself competing against the next. Of course, those denominations ended up splitting over theological and, sometimes, socio-political differences, which is sometimes a necessary thing. Yet, it has also opened the door for competition between the denominations. Within communities, different churches strive to bring in the most members, in order to bring in the most money in, in order to have the most resources to do the most ministry. What’s worse is that there is competition within denominations for who can have the largest church with the most turnout. All of this to amass status within an organization that is not supposed to be viewing people as better or worse, but as unique parts with equal importance in the body of Christ.
For Christ, it is not about who is bigger or better or stronger or smarter or wealthier or most productive; rather, it is all about faithfulness. Faithfulness cannot be competed for, it cannot be measured in greater or smaller. One is either faithful or they are not. Faithful disciples will produce fruit for the Kingdom, unfaithful disciples will not. God does not care who has the biggest church with the largest congregation. God does not care who has the greatest praise band or who is somehow measured to be the most vital congregation. What God cares about is the lives of those he has created.
Each community is filled with such lives and the church is called to bring them the Good News of God’s presence with them, as well as God’s love for them. Rather than competing for worldly profit and/or status, rather than being show offs with nothing to show for it in the Kingdom of God, Christ is calling us to be faithful in bringing his Good News of hope, healing and wholeness to the communities we live in. Let us stop competing and start recognizing that in the Kingdom of God, we are all winners. It’s time to usher that reality in.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” – Indira Gandhi
Lord, help me to move beyond competition. Rather than striving to be better than others, help me to strive to be faithful in all that I do. Amen.