Is it human nature to turn everything into a competition?

I had that thought as I was reading through the story of Jacob the other day (Genesis 25: 19- chapter 33).

Who can get the most stuff, who can live the “greenest” lifestyle; and in the case of Jacob’s wives, who could bear the most children to capture the attention of their husband.

Leah and Rachel were sisters.  And everyone likes to play the comparison game.  That is, everyone on the upper end of the charts.  Both sisters probably heard all their lives how knock-out gorgeous Rachel was, and how ho-hum Leah’s looks were.  Their dad had to trick Jacob into marrying Leah, probably just so she would get married to someone (which was pretty important in those days).

Imagine waking up and hearing your new husband gasp in horror at your “lovely” morning ‘do, and then hearing him complain to your father because you’re not the pretty one that he wanted to marry.  How humiliating!!  It certainly didn’t create much love between these 2 sisters!  So since Leah couldn’t compete in a beauty competition with her sister, she thought having the most children (mainly boys) would get her points with Jacob (It didn’t really work out that way for her, but it did make her sister jealous).

It seems like quite a few siblings in the Bible didn’t get along very well.  Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4: 1-16).  Jacob cheated Esau… twice (Genesis 25: 19-34 & Genesis 27).  Joseph rubbed his brothers’ faces in the fact that he was the favorite, and then they sold him as a slave to get back at him (Genesis 37).  Even Jesus’ brothers mocked him because they didn’t believe he was who he said he was (John 7: 1-5).

It seems that wherever there is family, there is the big potential for competition and comparison, even among the church family.  We’re not immune.

I found myself struggling as I wrote this post.  I started working on it two weeks ago, and every time I sat down to finish it, my words failed me.  I finally figured it out.  As I was reading the other posts that Julia wrote before me, I was comparing my writing style to hers.  I was feeling very inadequate.  I thought nobody would want to read what I have to write after all her good posts.  And it totally stifled my writing “voice” until I realized what was happening.

We each have our own gifts and are called to use those gifts to bring glory to God.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12: 4-6,

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (NIV)

Later, in the same chapter, Paul goes on to describe the church as a human body, with all its various parts.  To work properly, one body part can’t start comparing itself to another and then say, “The work that you’re doing isn’t as important as what I’m doing; therefore, I don’t need you.  Go away!” or, “I quit because I’m not as prominent as the head.”  That would be a little crazy if your head or your hand started saying that to another part of your body.  I’m pretty sure you would self-destruct.

It’s equally crazy to do within the church.  I need to acknowledge that the gifts God gave to others are important.  I want to celebrate with them and nurture their passion and desire to honor God with what He has given them, not sit sulkily in the corner because it’s not all about me.

And the gifts that He gave me to use are also important.  It is so hard not to compare myself with others.  But when I do, it dampens my joy, kills my confidence, and minimizes my ability to even use that gift.

-But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  (1 Corinthians 12: 24b-26, NIV)

-Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.  For we are each responsible for our own conduct.  (Galatians 6: 4-5, NLT)