A few weeks ago my eyes were glued to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. I streamed games, kept up with the ever developing bracket and usually rooted for the underdog. The Masters Golf Tournament just wrapped up a few days ago and I for one couldn't get enough. Tiger's comeback was crazy to watch and even more enthralling was the crowd's insatiable appetite for his victory. The NBA finals are getting underway, over the next few months teams and coaches will be fighting for their professional lives.
We love the idea of competition don't we? Competition is everywhere. It obviously embedded into the world of sports at both a professional level as well as an amateur level. Most parents are quick to get their kids involved in something competitive at a young age. We like to think that it builds character and teaches them the value of hard work and how to win with class and lose with dignity. I personally enjoy a good competition as well. It's seldom that my grown friends and I are together and some sort of competition or challenge doesn't take place. We can turn just about anything into a competition. I'm in competition's corner for sure. I love it.
I'll admit that competition has its place. I'll also admit that our love affair with competition has some nasty side effects that we should be cautious of, especially as Christ followers. In our world of constant comparison we can quickly fall into the trap of grading our spirituality against that of those around us. This is dangerous stuff.
The book of Matthew records for us a parable that Jesus shares regarding this very idea. Jesus says, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work. “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing. So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing. “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’ “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’ “The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’ “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first. When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’ “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” Matthew 20:1-16 (NLT)
Why do we worry ourselves with what God is doing in the life of another versus what He's doing in our lives? Does God not have a plan for us? Is He not mapping out a journey that's specifically for us? Has God not already spoken to us as to what we're supposed to be doing? Is God somehow short changing us when He chooses to show up in someone else's life in a way that He hasn't shown up in our lives?
I love Matthew Henry's commentary on this passage when he says, "See here the nature of envy. It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others, and desires their hurt. It is a grief to ourselves, displeasing to God, and hurtful to our neighbours: it is a sin that has neither pleasure, profit, nor honour. Let us forego every proud claim, and seek for salvation as a free gift. Let us never envy or grudge, but rejoice and praise God for his mercy to others as well as to ourselves."
Be encouraged and keep moving forward. -Andy