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Bible verses about Competition
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Compete is defined in Webster's Dictionary, Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition as "to try to get what others also seek and which all cannot have." Now we understand why the United States is full of violence! The dynamic of American capitalism is competition. We are told, "Be all that you can be!" From earliest childhood we are urged to strive, to compete against others, and these others rarely have any alternative but to compete in return. Guess whose spirit is driving America's way of life?

Competition makes it difficult for people to cooperate because it instills the concept of winning, of getting the prize, the honor, the acclaim, the satisfaction, for the self. Does pride play a part in this? You know it does! It is especially seen in athletics where pride is the driving force that propels the gifted on to victory.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

Genesis 3:1-5

The word “shrewd” more closely captures Satan's character than "cunning." Shrewd means “sharp and clever in a selfish way.” Though “cunning” is not incorrect, “shrewd” has clearer connotation.

To be cunning and shrewd like Satan indicates malevolent brilliance—with the emphasis on malevolent. He is seeking to kill. His cunning is like that of a tiger, silently padding through the jungle with eyes malevolently seeking something to kill and eat.

Consider how clever his tactic was. He subtly made a suggestion rather than an argument to discredit God's authority, casting doubt about God's credibility. Satan asked, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'"

Through the tone and inflection of his voice, Satan implied that there was doubt that God told them the truth. This is shown by the way Eve replied; she corrected him. She knew from the inflection of his voice that he was really asking a question and casting doubt. When she replied, she over-corrected.

Like a good salesman, the serpent got his victim to agree with him, getting the victim to say “Yes, yes, yes,” and then, "I'll buy it!" Eve was already influenced when she gave her reply because she over-corrected.

Satan successfully magnified God's strictness in her mind, reminding her that the way is narrow. She began to agree with him, thinking about God in terms the serpent wanted her to think. She began to agree, saying “Yes, yes, yes” to the salesman's ploys.

Satan immediately minimized the penalty, saying an outright lie, "You shall not die" (3:4). Then to clinch the sale, he offers her a reward: "You shall be like God" (3:5). What a price she paid! Satan offered a reward that must have seemed so big to Adam and Eve that they could not afford to reject it. What he offered was enough to reorient their lives.

They did not catch the complete significance of what he offered, but enough to know it was big. He offered the self to become the dominating focus of life; "You shall be God." He completely reoriented their lives by turning their focus away from obedience to God toward obedience to the self. He gave them the right to choose and to set the standards of right and wrong. They bought it hook, line, and sinker.

From that point on, mankind has viewed God as a rival and competitor rather than a friend—Someone with whom to compete and outwit rather than cooperate, for they were now gods too!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Job 41:34

This verse portrays God speaking of Leviathan, which clearly represents a being of awesome power and influence over mankind. God's description of Leviathan must not be misunderstood by focusing merely on its monstrous physical appearance, but rather on its reality as a living being, possessing strong leadership qualities and powerful influence.

Leviathan strikes fear into men to bring about submission to him and thus control of them. He is the king of pride, and he rules "the children of pride," who are the overwhelming masses of unconverted people, those not submissive to God. They, like their king and spiritual father, are enemies of God. Whether his mass of followers is aware of it or not, they have been forcibly inducted into his service. This is the same being of which Jesus informed the Jews in John 8:44:

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

The one who became Satan is a powerful and dominating creation of Almighty God. He was created, not as an enemy of God and His purpose, but as a powerful cherub to serve Him in His purpose by leading other angels in their service to God. Jude 6 discloses that the place of their service was on Planet Earth before mankind was created. But, as Ezekiel 28:14-17 shows, he turned his heart against God to become an enemy, influencing the angels under his charge to rebel with him to fight against God (Revelation 12:9; Isaiah 14:12-14).

God defeated them, and they were cast back to earth. Satan and his minions are still here, continuing their war against God and His creation—man. Ephesians 2:1-3 informs us about how this warfare is being carried out:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Satan's influence is worldwide: "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (I John 5:19). His ultimate object is to destroy God, but along the way he also strives to destroy any aspect of God's creation, most especially man. He is doing this through inducing human beings to sin in order to bring upon them the wages of sin—death.

His basic tool for accomplishing this is by means of his spirit. The driving forces of his prideful, deceitful mind and those of his demon companions are deceit, hatred, anger, competition, and destruction, all encompassed within an overweening pride. People absorb them into their thinking processes, becoming like him in attitude and conduct. These characteristics lodge into human hearts and generate resistance to God, His law, and His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living By Faith and Human Pride


 

Proverbs 13:10

Only through pride does contention last. We primarily see the effects of pride because pride is frequently difficult to detect. God has shown in His Word how to detect it: by looking at the fruits. How do we know false prophets? By their fruits, by what they produce.

A quarrel that could be easily settled if both parties were humble continues indefinitely when parties are arrogant. Why? Because pride plows the way for contempt for the others opinion. Pride inflames passion and wounds feelings. Because of competitiveness, also an aspect of pride, a person feels he has to fight back. And so the argument goes back and forth.

If we are ever involved in a quarrel that seemingly will not end, we should be well-advised from God's Word that the problem is pride. It is somewhere in the picture in one or both who are participating in the conflict. The quarrel will never end until one person makes up his mind to stop it by refusing to argue back, suppressing the feeling that he must win.

One of the greatest spiritual advances that I ever made in my life was when it suddenly dawned on me one day that I did not have to win. God is on His throne, and because He loves me and the other person, God will make available to both of us what the right decision is. If we ask patiently, persevering without anger, and if we continue to meditate and search and counsel with Him, the answer will come. So, arguments stop.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Ecclesiastes 4:4-7

The major reason for hard work among men is rivalry, competition. Someone is trying to outdo somebody else, and success breeds envy in neighbors. So a person engages in hard work to outclass somebody else.

Solomon, however, reaches the conclusion that rivalry does not produce lasting companionship. What do rivalry and competition produce? Enemies. He then concludes that contentment is two times better than the futility of pursuing after gain, that is, keeping up with the Joneses is a futile thing for a person to do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Ecclesiastes 4:4-8

Ecclesiastes 4:4-8 records Solomon's analysis of four types of workers. He appears to have disgustedly turned his attention from the corrupted halls of justice to the marketplace, watching and analyzing as people worked. Recall how those who work diligently are lauded throughout Proverbs and how Ecclesiastes 2 and 3 both extol work as a major gift of God. Solomon came away from this experience with assessments of four different kinds of workers. Understand that God chooses to illustrate His counsel by showing extremes; not everybody will fit one of them exactly. At the same time, we should be able to use the information to make necessary modifications to our approach to our own work.

The first he simply labels the “skillful” worker. This worker has not only mastered the techniques of his trade, but he is also unusually industrious in performing it. We might better call this person a skillful workaholic. The man's skill is laudable, but his productivity motivates others to envy rather than to admiration. Knowing human nature well, Solomon is motivated to think more deeply about what drives such a person to apply himself so intensely. This may be especially useful for us because it seems to apply well to life in an Israelite culture.

Verse 4 is translated to make it appear as though those watching this skillful worker envy his diligence. However, other versions change the direction of the translation, instead saying that the diligent worker labors as he does because he is driven by his own attitude. The Jewish Publication Society, the New American Bible, and the Revised English Bible all change the word “envy” to “rivalry.” That is, people of this mindset perfect their skills and work industriously because of their competitive nature gone overboard.

They want to have more wealth as well as a greater reputation than others in their field of endeavor. This type is especially strongly driven to stay ahead of the competition. Some have analyzed that such workaholics see themselves in what may be called a “battle for bread”; their purpose in being skillful is less to produce a truly quality product than it is to get rich. Thus, the hands are truly capable, which is admirable, but the heart is out of alignment with God. Solomon describes a law of nature, the survival-of-the-fittest attitude, applied to a person's trade. He concludes that this is detrimental, literally a sheer vanity that makes life meaningless.

He is describing something similar to American capitalism, which is productive but not perfect. This competitive approach to work was not part of God's original creation of mankind but a twist Satan has inserted as part of human nature. It is unbalanced in a number of ways, one of the more obvious being that such driven people ignore or submerge other important aspects of life like marriage and family. The worker may feel good about himself because he is providing well for his family, but he is blind to the fact that others are paying a severe price.

Covetousness, competition, envy, and jealousy are often linked. Competition is not evil in itself, but when being first is pursued at the expense of honesty, trouble will also be produced. We see this when some athletes break the rules by using drugs or when manufacturers cut back on the quality of a product. The world is full of Joneses to keep up with or excel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Five): Comparisons


 

Isaiah 14:13

Biblically, God's throne is in the north—way in the north of heaven. What Helel had decided to do (he was already in the attitude of Satan) was to exalt himself and his throne by attacking God and supplanting Him.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Ezekiel 28:16

"By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within" is difficult to understand in terms of angelic beings, but it shows a measure of competition. He certainly began to be in competition with God. Not being content with his position, he began to compete with God, and it filled him with violence and sin.

The attitude of competition, once it is taken too far, becomes violent. The only way a person can win is by beating down his adversary.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Ezekiel 28:16-17

God had made him perfect in wisdom, had He not? But Helel, who became Satan, corrupted that wisdom. In biblical terms, wisdom is the actual doing of righteousness. What happened in this situation was that Helel's doings, actions, behaviors, became corrupted. He should have known better because God had given him that wisdom. Early on, he had acted in wisdom, but his competitive attitude, his discontent, his pride, caused him to pervert his way of life.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Countering Presumptuousness


 

Matthew 20:20-28

Here, the disciples show they understood what Christ was doing, but they immediately let the idea of such awesome power go to their heads by vying for the very top positions. Christ explains that His disciples must use authority in a godly fashion, not for self-aggrandizement as the Gentiles had used it.

Staff
Who Are the 'Guests at the Wedding'?


 

Mark 8:34-38

Why does Christ have to say things like this? Because human nature is driven by the impulse that the only way to the things a person deeply desires is through self-centered, assertive, competitive concentration on getting what it wants. We all have this drive; however, individuals differ in the strength of human nature in them and the methods they employ to achieve their goals. Jesus says the self must be denied because human nature is driven by pride and covetousness.

Of course, the Bible is not urging us to court martyrdom. It is speaking of a general approach to life, of crucifying the self-centered impulses of human nature. This means subordinating a clamoring ego with its preoccupation with "I," "me," and "mine"; its concern for self-assertion; and its insistence on comfort and prestige. It is denying the self for the sake of embracing Christ's cause. To be ashamed to live this way of life is equivalent to being ashamed of Christ Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Six): Eternal Life


 

John 13:34-35

God is showing through the church that all the prejudices against God and man can be dissolved and overcome through Christ. "New" here implies freshness, rather than from the point of time. It is part of the different perspective one receives upon conversion. Doing what He says to do is new for a convert because it means operating from the perspective of cooperation rather than competition. It is a new thing for a convert to show love, which is the exercising or the application of God's Word.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Romans 1:22-23

These verses show that pride motivates us to do things that make no sense in the light of God's truth. It motivates us to exalt ourselves above others, to compete against others, and to reject truth to continue the exaltation and promotion of the self. We will take this to such an extent that we will gamble—even with our own and other's lives—to bring that result about.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

Romans 12:3

This is not meant either as a put down in any way, or that one is better than another. But not everyone is the same. God gives gifts to each to fulfill his position in the body. Another may not be as well-equipped to do a particular job because He has given other gifts for him to fulfill his function. He gives these diverse gifts so we can cooperate for the well-being of the body, not compete to its destruction. If offense and division among brethren are occurring regularly, we can be certain that the king of pride is stirring up pride in them to compete for something all cannot have.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Contention, and Unity


 

Romans 14:19

This seems so obvious that it need not be said, but God includes it in His Word because Christians within the church do not hold in check some of the very things that cause so much disunity in this world. The apostle entreats us to lay aside the causes of contention so we can live in harmony.

Sometimes we do not understand how competitive human nature is. It is proud. It feels it has to win, be vindicated, and if possible, elevated over others. These attitudes do not make peace. Rather than pursuing the things that cause contention, Paul says, pursue the things that cause peace. It is a Christian's responsibility, part of his vocation. Emphasizing the positive is an incomplete, but nonetheless fairly accurate, description of what can be done.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 13:10, "By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom." Contention divides. Much of the strife and disunity in the church is promoted by those who seem bent on "majoring in the minors." This is the overall subject of Romans 14. Church members were becoming "bent out of shape" over things that irritated them but had little or nothing to do with salvation. They blew these irritants out of proportion to their real importance, creating disruption in the congregation.

Essentially, Paul tells these people to change their focus, to turn the direction of their thinking, because we agree on far more that is of real, major importance to salvation than what we disagree on. If we will cooperate on these major things rather than on private ends and prejudices, peace and unity will tend to emerge rather than strife and disunity. Paul further admonishes the irritated members to have faith in God's power to change the other: "Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

Why can we not cultivate a spirit of peace by striving for holiness? Holiness is a major issue leading to preparation for God's Kingdom and salvation. Peace is one of its fruits. Why can we not show love for the brethren and strive to do good for them "as we have opportunity, . . . especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10)? Why can we not spend more serious time studying God's Word, getting to know Him? These admirable pursuits are humbling and serving. They produce peace and put other, less important matters into a proper perspective and priority. If pursued sincerely, they keep the "minors" right where they belong because they tend to erode one's pride.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

1 Corinthians 11:18-19

Contrasting the unity that Christ died to establish is the division sown by the Adversary as part of his “divide and conquer” strategy. Paul writes of factions (or divisions) in relation to the members of the Corinthian church of God:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions [schisma] among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions [hairesis] among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (I Corinthians 11:18-19)

In general, the nouns schisma and (to a lesser extent) hairesis receive pejorative treatment in the New Testament. The thrust of the apostle's comments on the topic of church factions is that they showcase the presence of human nature at work in Christians. Schisms are the result of carnality alive-and-kicking in the church. They emerge where God's people are not fully committed to living His way of life, where they deny God His rightful place as Sovereign Ruler of their lives. Axiomatically, the lack of unity in a congregation reflects a proportional lack of repentance on the part of its members.

Paul introduces the concept of division, using the same Greek word as he does in I Corinthians 11:18, schisma, in the book's first chapter:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions [schisma] among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. (I Corinthians 1:10-11)

Quarreling is a manifestation of the unity-dissolving “friction or competition.”

Charles Whitaker
Unity and Division: The Blessing and the Curse (Part One)


 

Ephesians 4:1-3

Notice carefully what Paul names as the reason for making unity and peace: the value we place on our calling. If, in our heart of hearts, we consider it of small value, our conduct, especially toward our brethren, will reveal it and work to produce contention and disunity. Thus John writes, "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (I John 4:20).

Paul next counsels us to choose to conduct ourselves humbly. Humility is pride's opposite. If pride only produces contention, it follows that humility will work to soothe, calm, heal, and unify. He advises us to cultivate meekness or gentleness, the opposite of the self-assertiveness that our contemporary culture promotes so strongly. Self-assertiveness is competitive determination to press one's will at all costs. This approach may indeed "win" battles over other brethren, but it might be helpful to remember God's counsel in Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." James declares that godly wisdom is "gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy" (James 3:17).

Then Paul counsels that we be patient; likewise, James counsels us to "let patience have its perfect work" (James 1:4). We often want quick resolutions to the irritations between us, which is certainly understandable since we want to get rid of the burden those differences impose. But we must understand that speedy solutions are not always possible. Interestingly, in Paul's letter to the Philippians, he does not use his apostolic authority to drive the two feuding women into a forced solution (Philippians 4:1). Some problems are deeply buried within both sides of the contention, so finally Paul admonishes us to forbear with each other in love. Essentially, he says to "put up with it" or endure it, doing nothing to bring the other party down in the eyes of others and vainly elevate the self. This is peacemaking through living by godly character.

Yet another aspect to the Christian duty of peacemaking is our privilege by prayer to invoke God's mercy upon the world, the church, and individuals we know are having difficulties or whom we perceive God may be punishing. This is one of the sacrifices of righteousness mentioned in relation to Psalm 4:5. The Bible provides many examples of godly people doing this. Abraham prayed for Sodom, Gomorrah, and probably Lot too, when the division between them and God was so great that He had to destroy the cities (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses interceded for Israel before God following the Golden Calf incident (Exodus 33:11-14). Aaron ran through the camp of Israel with a smoking censer (a symbol of the prayers of the saints) following another of Israel's rebellions that greatly disturbed the peace between them and God (Numbers 16:44-50). In each case, God relented to some degree. We will probably never know in this life how much our prayers affect the course of division or how much others—even the wicked—gained as a result of our intercession, but we should find comfort knowing that we have done at least this much toward making peace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 7: Blessed Are the Peacemakers


 

1 Peter 3:9

Peter is talking about turning the other cheek. Satan is always trying to move, motivate, guide, lead us toward self-satisfaction in every circumstance. If we are in a position or situation in which we are trying to defeat another, it is probable that he has a hold of us. Satan is competitive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 John 2:15-16

These verses are a basic guideline to the alluring heart of the Babylonish system. This system has its basis in human nature. It feeds right into our desire for frequent change and variety of experience as the answer to fulfillment in life, but the Bible clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness.

Babylon promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement and gratification of the flesh, and variety of experience. These major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose. People do not know where they are going. They are bouncing in every different direction. There is competition, hitting heads with one another. There is disunity and diversity everywhere. There is disharmony, fighting with one's neighbor. There is separation from each other and eventually from God and ultimately the separation of death. The result is that the world is not a happy place to live in.

None of these factors that are part of the allurement of Babylon can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, abundant living, and purpose in life because none of them is in constant harmony with the purpose of God. Each of these things, though they may not be sin of and by themselves, can only produce a temporary burst of well-being.

Many, many times, God instructed Israel against this proclivity. They were to seek out only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. But Israel is disastrously curious and terribly smitten with the discontented, unsettled, impatient "grass is always greener" disease.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

1 John 2:15-16

These verses provide a basic guideline for avoiding entrapment by this alluring heart of the Babylonish system. Since this system has its basis in human nature, it feeds right into the desires for frequent change and variety of experience as the answers to fulfillment in life. The Bible, however, clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness, which is diametrically opposed to the world's system. It promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement, gratification of the flesh, and variety of religious experience. Its major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose, competition, disharmony, disunity, separation from each other and God, and death.

The result is that this world is not a happy place to live in. None of these factors can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, and abundant living because none of them harmonizes with the purpose of God. They can only produce a temporary burst of emotional well-being or satisfaction.

God instructed Israel often and in many ways against this proclivity. They were to seek only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. Israel, though, is disastrously curious and incautious and filled with discontented, unsettled, impatient, "grass is always greener" yearnings.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Revelation 17:16

The woman and the beast represent political power with somewhat diverse and competing application of the same Babylonish system. The competition, according to this principle in Mark 3:24-26, will eventually escalate into war between them. Each is competing for world domination, and just as surely as Satan's house cannot stand, the Babylonish system cannot stand.

We see where the competition will go between these two. At the beginning of Revelation 17, the woman is sitting on the beast, but by the end, the woman has been gobbled up by the super-powerful beast. It does not happen until God puts it into the heart of the kings, who make up the beast, to do so. We can begin to see that up until that point, God is intervening on the behalf of the woman who would seem to be weaker than this wild beast, but she is actually controlling it much of the time.

Competition may appear on the surface to be good, producing better quality and better value, but it ultimately destroys. That is God's point. It ultimately destroys.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:16-17

Within the practical realities of international political, economic, and military affairs, the Beast may be resentful and unwilling to do as the Woman directs. As a wild animal would, it will undoubtedly buck and resist, but until God is ready, it ends up most of the time doing what the Woman wants. The Beast submits to the Woman because she possesses power greater in certain areas than the Beast, a power the Beast resents, envies, and plots to have for itself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

 




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