Thursday, June 11th, 2009 | Author:

Welcome to the Word for Wednesday meme. Okay, I know it’s Thursday, but I’ll give it a go anyhow, because yesterday was just one of those days.

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From the first T-ball game to getting into college to getting a good job, we are taught to compete with one another. We are told that we need to learn how to win or lose gracefully, and that team sports build character.

But I’ve been wondering lately just what kind of character competition builds, and what we learn from the experience. I’ve also been wondering how it all stacks up against the Bible, so here’s a few random thoughts.

Ignoring those parents who try to rewrite their own childhood through the accomplishments of their kids, honest parents will acknowledge that while they tell their kids that doing their best is all that matters, in actuality the kids are rewarded for winning. Whether it’s expressed through cheers for a win or an ice cream cone as consolation for a loss, we’re taught that winning the game is good and losing is bad; feats of prowess are good and a poor performance is bad. This is the nature of competition.

We’re also indoctrinated with the herd mentality: our family, our school, our team is better than the other family, school, or team. Not because of any character traits, but simply because they are ours. Does this “us against them” attitude set us up to embrace “our nation” and try to annihilate the other nation? Does it, in fact, prepare us to go to war and kill people simply because they are not one of us?

Speaking as a long-time Redsox fan, I know that competition also encourages evil thoughts. The Yankees have got a player injured? Hooray! One of our guys punched one of their guys and started a bench-clearing brawl? Go get ‘em!

And how much time, energy, and money do we waste on competitions that truly don’t make any difference to the world?

Here are a few related thoughts written by others. You’re welcome to add your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to check out the other WFW posts here and here.

Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny.

Etienne de la Boetie, 1530-1563

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

(Romans 12:3-5)

On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

(1 Corinthians 12:22-26)

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 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 9:23-27)

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