I went with my friend last week to find a rock to place on the altar that would be built that day. The rock was to represent something that I felt like the Lord wants me to sacrifice in His name. I found it in a stream bed – a perfect rock for the purpose; just big enough that I had to strain to carry it, but not so big that I risked hurting my 60+ year-old body carrying it around. Upon returning to my friend’s house, I anointed it with olive oil and with wine and prayed as led by the spirit. My prayer essentially went something like this:
“Lord, you know I’m not really big on symbolism. I’m much more about trying to truly learn, do, and become more like you. As I anoint this rock, I cast out, in your name, the spirit of contention and competition from my soul. It is my desire to let it go, to root it out, so that it is no longer part of my thoughts, desires, or being. Furthermore, as I dedicate this rock, I symbolically cast out this same spirit from your Zion to come. When I place this rock upon the altar, I not only pray for protection for myself, but I pray for protection for all who would come to Zion, that they, too, will reject this spirit, for I know that it can have no place in Zion. Lord, this is my desire, and I declare it now, vocally, tangibly, to you. I also declare this symbolically through this rock for all those who will be brought to Zion. Lord, this is my humble sacrifice this day, and I ask you to receive it – in your Holy name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.”
When I was asked to participate in this event that precipitated this anointing (the details aren’t really relevant), I asked myself, “What would the Lord want me to sacrifice”. It wasn’t long before it came to me. I was to sacrifice the thought processes, the “spirit”, of competition, that I know will keep me out of Zion. This spirit is imbued in us as part of our western culture. It’s the source of the desire to accumulate more, to be better, stronger, more powerful than the next person, and the source of what a friend recently called, “the curse of western society” – the need to control others. None of these things are compatible with living in Zion, where the inhabitants must be pure in heart, of one heart and one mind, and have all things in common.
For the past few months, I have been living in a situation where my faults are highlighted daily. It is a marvelous experience – the growth has been more intense than at any time in my life. One thing that I have come to realize is that, for me, almost all personal discomfort is the result of one thing – the fact that I am in the habit of determining my individual progression or self-worth by comparing myself to others; am I as good as them or am I better than them? Am I as kind, as resourceful, as smart, as hard-working, as meek, as rich, as loving, as knowledgeable, as worthy…you get the drift. I’m convinced that we all indulge in this sort of thinking to some extent, but I didn’t realize how pervasive it was in my own life until recently, and when the light finally did come on, I decided I just didn’t want to carry that burden any more.
Guess what, I don’t think I’m alone, or even unusual in this. I strongly suspect that most people are just as heavily burdened by this spirit of competition as I am, and perhaps even more so.
Competition, of course, is something that drives people to “succeed”. It is considered by babylon to be the life-blood of our society – necessary for not only its progress, but it’s very survival. However, it necessarily results in some having more than others – whether it be the accumulation of material wealth or the development and demonstration of mental, emotional, and spiritual attributes. It perpetuates the lie that our value is only to be determined by comparison to the “value” of others. This, then, begs the question of “how is value determined”, which in turn results inexorably in some form of idolatry. Whatever measure is used to determine our relative worth becomes that upon which our hearts are set (this is our very existence, self-awareness, and self-worth we are talking about here, so how we measure it all becomes very important to us), and could likely becomes that which we worship.
Obviously, the only thing that should be used to determine our self-worth is our relationship with Christ. He and He alone is our judge. Everything else is a substitute, a counterfeit, and thus a false idol.
I began cluing into the importance of this truth a couple of years ago when I realized that I am much more likely to be kind to and tolerant of people whom I perceive to be somehow “less” than me, while I am not likely to be as tolerant and kind and forgiving in my relationships with people whom I perceive to be “more” than me. Those who are “less” are “less” of a threat. Those who are “more” are “more” of a threat. Thankfully, this realization made me uncomfortable, and I’ve pondered ever since why I’m that way. I’ve remained unsatisfied with that aspect of my nature, and now pray that I’m prepared to try to do something about it.
Consider this idea, which was offered by another friend and which I cannot claim as my own; that when you compare yourself to another person, there are basically only two possible results. You either measure yourself as being better than them, which engenders pride, or you measure yourself as less than them, which engenders envy. This, of course, is an oversimplification, and all relationships are much more complicated than this, but many times there is great truth in looking at things this way – similar to seeing the forest for the trees.
Perhaps I’m wrong about how widespread this is. Obviously, I don’t read the thoughts of others, so my claim that this is widespread and endemic in babylon is absolutely speculative. Perhaps, indeed, I am unique in this, and perhaps this post will fall on deaf ears. I suspect not, though. The symptoms are so obvious as we look at our society that I’m not even going to list them. It is actually, I think, the spirit that is telling me that this spirit of competition can have no place in Zion. It is also based upon my own experience in examining myself and what motivates me. In my attempt to love others in the way they need to be loved, I am forced to look inward when there is conflict. If I am to live in Zion, I must rid my heart of impurities, and this is undoubtedly a profound impurity – an impurity that may well reflect the very essence of the fall. I have a hard time envisioning a society of “one heart and one mind” where everyone is constantly trying to elevate themselves above their neighbor in various aspects of their existence.
I now see things very clearly. In babylon, the individual’s worth is measured by their relative value as measured by false idols. In Zion, the individual’s worth is determined by Christ, who loves unconditionally and is no respecter of persons.
Zion will come. It will be a place where the Lord Himself will dwell. It will be built by those with humble hearts and willing hands – and by those who are able to cast out the spirit of competition.