Tag Archives: Competition

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Jealousy

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17 NRSV)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

FieryJWORKS OF THE FLESH: Jealousy. I serve as the pastor of a small country church in a part of New Jersey the rest of the world doesn’t know exists. One of the greatest things about the church that I serve has nothing to do with the size of it’s physical space, or the amount of the material resources our church community has, or the amount of people that come filing into worship on any given Sunday. What makes the church I serve so awesome is the gigantic heart and spirit of the community itself.

Unfortunately, church communities often don’t measure themselves by the things that God has provided for them but, rather, they often measure themselves by the things that other church communities have that they don’t. I have been in meetings in various church communities where I have heard people articulate, “If we only had a bigger worship space…if we only had a gymnasium…if we only had a huge screen…if we only had an amazing praise band and a dynamic music leader…if we only had a more hip pastor…if we only had a team of pastors…if we only had these things we could do REAL ministry in our community.”

What is unfortunate about such statements is that they are covetous in nature. When we focus on all of the things we don’t have we overlook all of the things we do have. By focusing on what we lack we end up finding ourselves wishing we had those things, rather than being grateful for all that God has given to us. We also fail to realize that we have things that those other communities lack. What’s more, rather than working to use the resources we DO have for the glory of God and the coming of God’s Kingdom, rather than using those resources to bring God’s hope, healing and wholeness into this world, we find ourselves using our limited resources to compete against other churches. Why? All because we have been consumed by jealousy.

As I said above, I serve as the pastor of a small country church in a part of New Jersey the rest of the world doesn’t know exists. We are a church of limited resources, a church relatively small in number, a church without a screen or a projector or a praise band. As for a super hip pastor…well, I will let others be the judge of that. But one thing we do have is the presence of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of Jesus Christ working within us to bring about change in our community. We have big hearts, a passion for serving others, a deep desire to worship God through servant leadership, and a desire to be agents of God’s hope, healing and wholeness. We may not have a ton of money, but we have all that we need to do the work that God is calling us to do. Rather than being someone else’s church, start being the church God has created you to be. Be authentic to who you, as a church community, are. If you do that, if you are good stewards of all that God has given you, and if you are faithful to Christ and his mission in this world, then you will be the community that blesses many as well as the community that is truly blessed.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.” – Gary Allan

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see all that you have given me rather than being focused on the things I think I lack. Amen.

15 Ailments of the Church #15: Competition

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)

beat-your-ecommerce-competitorsJamie 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

PRAYER

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.