(Satan said) For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3: 5)
(Jesus said) Be perfect, just like your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5: 48)
During this month when almost all middle-class people are focusing on World Cup, I find that it is useful reflection about the nature of competition.
I must confess that since around 13, other people and myself thought that I am competitive person. I actively dislike if someone is smarter than me academically. Partially, my attitude at that time was caused by financial difficulty of my parents. Although previously me and my mother stayed in my maternal grandfather’s house, because of family conflict both of us were expelled from his house and we need to rent and move every 1-2 years. Some of the places I stayed could be considered as slum for first world standard.
Luckily, at that time, my secondary and high school provided scholarship for top 3 students on my class. Since first time I got 2nd rank during grade 7, I could contribute to family finance by getting at least 9-month scholarship every year and it was also like ego-booster for immature 13-years old. So, when me and my parents quarreled, I can brag that I paid my own education bill. I should be grateful to God when eventually He humbled me by making me average student in my university and let me to accept my limitation.
The thought that we can improve others people’s perception towards us as we achieve high academic result, work performance and other things seems universal. We want to be perceived as someone who is important, who can be remembered by improving our social status.
Children used to have this desire with their height. They want to be equal height as their parents (or their creators). As adult, our physical growth has stopped but not potential for advancement. Blue-collar workers want to become white-collar workers. White-collar workers want to be leaders in certain communities (corporation, university, school, media etc). Community leaders want to become rulers (king and ministers) and eventually, like Satan, we want to become God Most High, to be remembered and worshipped by everyone for eternity.
This is dominant thought of our age. Ambition and individualism is being fed everywhere by capitalistic economic system and ideology of human progress. Life will be and should be better for everyone, everywhere regardless of condition of their family, culture or society. Self is the most important, not Others (whether it is society or God).
The problem with this paradigm is that if everybody think the same way, eventually there will be only one winner and the rest are losers. Only one will survive whereas the rest will die. However, there could not be any human that can live by itself and thus even winner will eventually die. Hence, competition will cause everybody die.
This selfish desire for advancement is being fed by many institutions in society by zero-sum system (or winner take all) used in entertainment (competitive sport like World Cup) and academia (using of bell curve). Although I myself enjoy watching soccer, I feel pity when I saw people are crying or even depressed because they lose the game. Because it is tournament format, eventually every team will be crying and disappointed but the winner. Since the probability of becoming winner is so small then why should people trouble their mind with continuous anxiety, tension, weariness, grief and so on? Probably you will die first before you become the winner and when you die you have never felt any happiness.
Are ambitions universally bad? Apparently, like two Bible verses above, BOTH Jesus and Satan wanted humans to have ambition to ‘become like God’. They mean different things though. Satan want humanity to have ultimate moral code like himself: ‘Do what you want’ (self interest) and then cultivating God-like attributes (omniscience in the case of Eve). Obtain perfect Wisdom and Power but ignore Love.
However, God also want ourselves to be like him. But different from Satan, He want us to perfect in virtue and accepting limitation of our imperfect knowledge and power. He did not create us in capacity of infinite wisdom nor power. And it could be seen that unlike Satan, God preferred Love above Wisdom and Power. No one can appeal to God to enter heaven because he graduated from Ivy League or because he is president of United States.
Obviously, to oppose this dominant spirit of our age, we should realize why Love is superior than Self. Because if Self is the most important, we will not be here now. We owed our existence to Love. If our parents are self-centered, they would have used their hard-earned money to go traveling and partying around instead of creating another being who can rebel against them. They could abort you when you are still in mommy’s womb. Yet you are here because of their compassions. They patiently took care of you for 17 years. Then, could we say that Self is most important?
It would not be easy to put Others first because you cannot see others’ mind and God but you know your own mind and you can see yourself. However, just like the scripture said: ‘The righteous shall live by faith’ (Romans 1: 17). And probably I would want to add one line: ‘The wicked shall die by their self-interest’.