If we’re comparing ourselves with others or we’re copying what others do in order to fit in and get noticed, we can almost without notice need to sustain ourselves by showing ourselves to be better than others and can begin to compete with those around us. Whether we realize it or not, our actions or motivations become driven by this.
As leaders, we are called to serve and empower others—which is how Jesus chose to advance his Kingdom. True fruit is seeing others thrive and grow. If we’re constantly competing with others around us, this becomes impossible to achieve. Not to mention un- healthy! Though few are willing to admit it, when we see a ministry or team like us succeed, it often can bring out a competitiveness that works directly opposite of Christ’s upside-down Kingdom.
There are other ways competition creeps in. We often compete with the “ambition” or “pre-conceived visions” of what success looks like with- in ourselves. And if we aren’t careful, those can wander right back into things that were started for right purposes, but become a threat to that which was good and right to do. A classic example of this is having to recreate a successful event, when God intended it to be a “one-time ” experience. The end result is that we spend our time competing and recreating, instead of contributing around the calling God has entrusted to each of us and the community in which we are a part.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one an- other, even as God in Christ forgave you.
“Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”
The trap, then, is this: if we put our focus on the wrong thing, we put ourselves in danger of missing the real thing Jesus has called us to do or accomplish. In this verse, I initially thought that “Let him who stole steal no longer” was a reference to the enemy. Then I realized that the next part ruled him out. The enemy can’t produce “something to give him who is in need.” This verse is talking about us.
In the end, what will you choose? I challenge you to cultivate instead of compare, create instead of copy, and contribute instead of compete.