Here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. –Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NIV)
The business world is filled with competitive people, because it has been running this way for centuries. These people don’t always start out as competitive types, but the more involved they get with secular employments, they become competitive because that is what is expected of them. At the root of it, the word competition can be defined as a contest where two enemies are fighting one another, in order that one of them might win, and the other one might lose. It makes me think of the video game Mortal Kombat where the players must fight to the death, and the winner, if he has the special codes, commits a fatality on the other guy. That’s what the business world is like. Competition is a death match, it’s a fight, a test of strength and skills, to see whether you will be the champion who wins, and the others who are competing with you, will become the losers. Some competitive types are total bullies—sadistic, seemingly taking pleasure out of pushing people around. But the Lord hates “bloodthirsty and deceitful” men; his eyes are “on the righteous” and he is “against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth” (Psalm 5:6; 34:15-16). So deliver yourself from them and pay their names no mind.
I’ve said a lot of things against competition in this book, because at the core of it, it runs against the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). “See if I care,” is however, the competitor’s response to such beliefs. Literally apathy and sadism towards others. When I see people like this in action, it infuriates me, but it also motivates me to want to follow Jesus better. Competition anywhere, in jobs, in any human relations, even in sports, tends to amplify the carnal nature and grieve the Spirit of God. Psalms and Proverbs are filled with statements against deceitful, fight-picking, competitive men who take advantage of others in their pursuit of ill-gotten gains. Even with so-called healthy competition. What is that? Good sportsmanship and praying before the game. What is that supposed to do? At the end of it, competition is a fight to the finish line, to sort out winners and losers. Even if you’re “being nice” about it; and you high-five the enemy at the end of each game. You are still stirring up flesh and envy in the others who lost. Competition in all its forms comes from the world, from Greek and Roman sports, and from war. It creates enemies where there were none previously. It starts a fight where there was no fight before. It makes men into bullies and bullies into winners; and it makes nice guys finish last. To adopt the competitive system into your personal life is to sellout to the world and leave the words and person of Jesus behind.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:1-4).
Competition, according to this brother of Jesus, ultimately stems from jealousy of what other people have. And then fighting to prove that you are more worthy to have those things than they are. Like trying to take their jobs from them. Competition is worldly. Fights, wars, and even murder stems from this thing called covetousness: the breaking of the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exod. 20:17). You shall not competitively covet your neighbor’s job either. Here is the cause for the disintegration of human society: nations fall because of this, sibling rivalry comes from this, families become dysfunctional and estranged because of this, spouses become divorced: and companies self-destruct, all because of this evil thing called competition. It is nothing other than fighting; and a distraction from the real purpose of business: diligence. Hard-working application of job skills to business activities which end up producing sales for the company. But many businessmen are so preoccupied with being competitive, that they have no time to be diligent.
Does one business compete against another business in the same industry? Do these compete over the quality of their products and their prices to win customers? YES! But they also compete in customer service, internally and externally: treating people according to the Golden Rule. Some companies excel at this, while other companies treat their customers like dirt. Most companies are run by secular thinking men, and so, are guided by Satanic principles: the “spirit of the world” (1 Cor. 2:12). But some companies, perhaps 25% of the American economy, who knows, are run by Christians and try to treat their people right.[i] In that sense, God is competing with Satan in those business competitions. The Pilgrims who traded wampum shells with the Indians, and sold their beaver furs at trading posts, might be an example of this. For a while they were the most successful out of all the settlers, because they knew the Indians.[ii] But most of what I’m referring to in this book is Machiavellianism: it’s what we in the West have adopted, a sense of competition that has been blown way out of proportion, and is manifested physically in the way we treat others in the office, and home; and in the aggressive, and violent, most popular sport called football, which we nationally celebrate.
If you mean to be a God-fearing Christian businessman, then you need to find a way to cast out the spirits of competition and covetousness from your heart in Jesus’ name! You will not succeed as a Christian if you cling to these vices. If you succeed at targeting these two demons, then you will probably not have that much of a problem with ridding yourself of deception, cruelty, and self-interest either. Because these lesser demons are only there to serve the greater causes of competition and jealous greed. Instead, fill up your mind with the Bible: “here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (Eccl. 12:13). Everything else, all that striving in the world of a competitive marketplace, is meaningless and vain by comparison. Does your job allow you to keep God’s commandments or does it get in the way? If it gets in the way, then change your job.
Are you still thinking about the rich man who went to Hell in Luke 16? Are you wondering why? Let’s take a close look at him:
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores (vv. 19-21).
Immediately after reading this, we are told that Lazarus died and went to Heaven; and then the rich man died and went to Hell: and as he was burning in the flames of damnation, he could see Lazarus far away standing with Abraham. Then he cried out to Abraham for pity; and asked him to send Lazarus over to the fire pit in which he was burning, just so that he could give him a few drops of water (vv. 22-24). Abraham explained that Lazarus suffered in his life, so now he will live in the comforts of Heaven; but the rich man had things go easy in his life, so now he will be suffering in Hell (v. 25). If this wasn’t enough of a request, the rich man throws yet another request to Abraham: that he would send Lazarus back to earth and rise from the dead; and that he would warn the rich man’s five brothers about the reality of Hell. Then Abraham says no, because they need to put their faith in the Bible first. Even if they witnessed a miracle like a resurrection or a ghostly visitation from Lazarus, they would find some way of explaining it away naturally, since they don’t already trust in the truths of the Bible (vv. 29-31).
Close examination will reveal why the rich man ended up in Hell and Lazarus in Heaven.
1. It wasn’t simply because he had more money than Lazarus did. Many people seem to overlook this. There’s a lot more going on in this passage. 2. The rich man bought luxury items instead of using that surplus for a benevolence fund to help extremely poor people like Lazarus. Even when constantly confronted with Lazarus’ hunger, sickness, and homelessness, he refused to give anything to help him out. He didn’t give him any job guidance either. The rich man had no compassion for the poor. 3. Even while being lashed by the flames of eternal punishment, the rich man still had the attitude of a snob, the prideful ego of a nobleman, so that he was still trying to exert authority over the poor, such as Lazarus was. Being a man who was probably in the upper class, he was likely in the habit of ordering servants around. His requests to Abraham, are by extension, attempts at giving orders to Lazarus, who used to be a poor man without any power. But now the tables have turned; and the rich man doesn’t realize that the pecking order isn’t the same in eternity. Lazarus is now in a place of authority beside Abraham, but the rich man has lost all his authority over others: all those who were beneath his rank and status.
4. The upper class are skilled at avoiding suffering. They have so much money, that they can insulate themselves from the cares and concerns of ordinary people. The rich man’s sensuality, hedonism, and Epicureanism was a contributing factor to his damnation. He was a self-serving, selfish, ego-centric man. He likely laughed at others who didn’t have his advantages; and kept himself in a constant state of luxurious enjoyments. Meanwhile, he saw homeless Lazarus with festering sores; and starving every day outside his gate. 5. Lastly, he was an atheist or unbeliever of some type. Whatever his religious orientation was, we can be sure that the rich man was not a Puritan or a fundamentalist. He did not believe in the reality of Hell while he was living; and he had no faith in the Bible. This is why he asked for Lazarus to go up and warn his five brothers (Luke 16:27-28), because they too didn’t put their faith in the Bible, and refused to believe in the existence of Hell as a reality or even as an article of faith. In summary, the rich man went to Hell, because he didn’t give to the poor, didn’t care about the poor, was an arrogant snob who bossed the poor around, was a sensual hedonist, and a Bible skeptic who rejected the paranormal and especially rejected the existence of Hell. Liberal Christians and atheists! Watch out!
Christians should try their best to be hard working, frugal at budgeting, and save money for emergencies, and try to increase their incomes, so they can put their kids through good colleges, and prepare for their retirement years by maxing out their IRAs every year, because the time will come when we will be too old to work with much vigor, and ageism might prevent companies from hiring us instead of younger folks with more stamina. Our life goal should not be to become a competitive jerk, to put it mildly, who succeeds at attaining a posh house, posh cars, and a maxed out 401(k): while at the same time being a total weakling at faith in the Bible; possessing personality traits laden with deception, hostility, and cruelty; being a total loser as a husband and father; or a soulless agnostic, who fears death more as his years approach the finish line. Mark 8:36: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
[i] Bernard Bailyn, op. cit., pp. 114-115.
[ii] Bernard Bailyn, op. cit., p. 24.