Peace of Mind in a Competitive Society
“IF ANYONE wants to be first,” Jesus Christ counseled his apostles, “he must be last of all and minister of all.” The apostles were arguing about who was greatest among them. They knew that Jesus detested that kind of spirit. Never did he pit his disciples against one another as a way to promote spiritual progress.—Mark 9:33-37.
Before coming to the earth, Jesus Christ shared in the creation of the first human couple and knew how they were made. (Colossians 1:15, 16) The first humans were created with the capacity to progress without ruthlessly competing with others. Humans had no need to fight among themselves to determine who was their head, nor did they compete with animals in a struggle for survival.—Genesis 1:26; 2:20-24; 1 Corinthians 11:3.
Origin of the Competitive Spirit
How, then, did a cutthroat competitive spirit become such a dominating force in human society? The first case of murder in human history gives a hint. A competitive spirit on the part of Cain, the eldest son of the first human couple, led to the tragedy. Cain murdered his brother Abel because Abel’s sacrifice pleased God, while Cain’s did not. And the Bible says that Cain “originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother.”—1 John 3:12; Genesis 4:4-8.
Yes, the wicked one, Satan the Devil, is the originator and promoter of the competitive spirit. Although he was an angelic son of God with high privileges, he wanted more. (Compare Ezekiel 28:14, 15.) When he seduced Eve, he betrayed his own desire. He said that by eating the forbidden fruit, she was “bound to be like God.” (Genesis 3:4, 5) Really, it was Satan who wanted to be like God, rivaling Jehovah. A spirit of competing against God spurred him to rebellion.—James 1:14, 15.
This spirit is contagious. Under Satan’s influence, the God-given peace of the original family arrangement was lost. (Genesis 3:6, 16) Ever since his rebellion against God, Satan the Devil has ruled mankind, fostering a spirit of competition, even deceiving men and women into believing that cutthroat competition is the key to success. However, the Bible explains: “Where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.” (James 3:14-16) Satan has thus robbed man of his happiness and peace of mind.
Success Without Competition
In contrast with Satan’s persuasion, the Bible gives examples of success apart from competition. Foremost is that of Jesus Christ. Although existing in God’s form, he never thought of being equal to God but took a slave’s form and came to the earth. More than that, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death on a torture stake. This obedient attitude, devoid of any spirit of rivalry, led to his winning divine favor. “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.” (Philippians 2:5-9) What greater success could any creature achieve? He pleased his Father to the extent that no other creature could, and this he did without any spirit of rivalry or competition.—Proverbs 27:11.
The numerous faithful angels in heaven show this same attitude. Although Jesus, who was the head of the angels, became a little lower than them when he came to earth, they willingly served his needs. Clearly, they entertained no thought of taking advantage of the situation and trying to supplant him as the Archangel.—Matthew 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Hebrews 2:7.
Their aversion to competitive attitudes is even more evident when we consider the way they have responded to God’s purpose to exalt some imperfect humans to immortal spirit life, in which state they will “judge angels.” (1 Corinthians 6:3) Angels have a wealth of experience in serving Jehovah and have far more ability to accomplish good than do imperfect humans. Still, the angels happily minister to anointed ones on earth, never jealous of what these will receive. (Hebrews 1:14) Their fine, noncompetitive attitude enables them to continue serving before the throne of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah.
Then, think of the ancient faithful servants of God who will be resurrected on earth. Abraham was an outstanding example of faith and was called “the father of all those having faith.” (Romans 4:9, 11) Job set a sterling example of endurance. (James 5:11) Moses, “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground,” led the nation of Israel to freedom. (Numbers 12:3) Who among imperfect humans has set a better example of faith, endurance, and meekness than these men? However, they are in line for inheriting the earthly realm of God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 25:34; Hebrews 11:13-16) They, like John the Baptizer, will be ranked below “a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 11:11) Will they even think of complaining, insisting that their faith, endurance, or meekness equaled or in some cases surpassed that of those given life in heaven? Assuredly not! They will be happy earthly subjects of God’s Kingdom.
Today, too, people without a competitive attitude are pleasant to be around. Yasuo, mentioned in the first article, got deeply in debt from speculating in gold and lost all his property. His “friends” left him. As his wife had started to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, he went to their meetings out of a feeling of remorse for the suffering he had caused his family. Eventually, he rid himself of competitiveness and became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now he is happy to be surrounded by Christian friends, the kind who are willing to help him in times of distress.
How to Maintain Peace of Mind
It is not always easy to maintain peace of mind in a pitiless, competitive society. We do well to note that the Bible condemns “enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies” as “works of the flesh” that hinder people from inheriting God’s Kingdom. All these works go hand in hand with a competitive spirit. No wonder the apostle Paul encouraged the Galatians: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”—Galatians 5:19-21, 26.
In this context, Paul’s letter showed the key to coping with egotistical competition. He said: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) The fruitage of the spirit helps us to rid our minds of rivalry. Consider, for example, the quality of love. “Love is not jealous,” explains Paul. “It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) By cultivating love, we can root out jealousy, a driving force in the spirit of competition. The other fruits of the spirit also help us to wash away from our hearts and minds any lingering traces of a cutthroat, competitive spirit. Why, with self-control any rising urge to compete against others so as to win at all costs can soon be suppressed!—Proverbs 17:27.
In order to cultivate these qualities, however, we must allow God’s spirit to work on us. We can encourage this healthful outworking of the holy spirit by persevering in prayer and asking for God’s spirit to help us. (Luke 11:13) In response to our prayer, what will God grant us? The Bible answers: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
This was evident in the case of Jesus’ apostles. Even after Jesus had initiated the Lord’s Evening Meal on his last night with the apostles, they were still bickering over which one of them seemed to be greatest. (Luke 22:24-27) Jesus had on different occasions tried to help them to correct their thinking, but this competitive attitude was deeply ingrained in them. (Mark 9:34-37; 10:35-45; John 13:12-17) However, once they received the holy spirit some 50 days after that dispute, their attitude changed. There was no argument over who would represent them in speaking to the curious crowd gathered on that day of Pentecost.—Acts 2:14-21.
There was no place for any human domination over the Christian congregation. When they had to solve a problem concerning circumcision, James, who was not even a disciple at the time of Jesus’ death, presided over that important meeting. There is no sign of dispute over who would take the lead in that meeting of the governing body of the Christian congregation. What a change from the time when the apostles were tainted with a competitive spirit! With the help of holy spirit, they recalled Jesus’ teachings and began to grasp the meaning of his lessons.—John 14:26.
The same can be true of us. With the help of holy spirit, we can overcome any lingering urge to compete with others so as to make progress at their expense. Rather, we can gain the peace of mind that excels all thought. The Bible assures us that the source of cutthroat competition, Satan the Devil, will soon be abyssed, made inactive. (Revelation 20:1-3) Rivalry between neighbors will no longer exist. Will the result be a society without any progress? By no means! Humans will rise to perfection, not through any competition among themselves, but through application of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice toward them.—1 John 2:1, 2.
Keinosuke, mentioned earlier, who had once experienced the glory of worldly success by selling a record number of cars, wore himself out both mentally and physically, but he finally quit his job. “Now, my life is full of true joy,” he says. He came to see why true success marked Jesus’ life. He now finds refreshment in whatever he can do in God’s worldwide congregation. He is thus being prepared for the new world, which will be without competition. You too can have a preview of this new world society by visiting one of the Kingdom Halls in your area and associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Peace and cooperation will be enjoyed by human society in God’s new world