The Bedrock of babylon – the Spirit of Competition

sports1I 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:

rock1“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 oursports2 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 sports4progression 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, sports3emotional, 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.

16 comments on “The Bedrock of babylon – the Spirit of Competition

  1. It’s called “fear,” and it is the opposite of love.

  2. Your full of yourself are you not

    • Ktamer, I’m not sure what I said in this post that would elicit that response. Perhaps if you want to explain, I can respond. “Full of myself”? Not a very kind accusation.

  3. Well, really, who else would you be full of? Unless you’re a cannibal. Then you might be full of someone else.

  4. This is an interesting thought! I agree that competition has become the preeminent force in society. It is seen everywhere and in most everyone. I am not sure which comes first, but it seems to lead to impatience, disdain, snobbery, and many other less than Christian attributes. I also see Log’s assertion that it is based in fear. Fear of losing what is yours (if anything really is ours to lose), fear of weakness, and a fear of the loss of worldly honor and praise. So, is competition like most sins and human weakness, something that needs to be rooted out of us? Or, is it more like money, where the love of it becomes the root of pride?

    • Milo, I think it’s more like the love of it becoming the root of pride. Note my response to SB above. If we are truly only serving, and not attempting to accumulate wealth for ourselves, the economic competition that is the bedrock of babylon goes out the window. But there’s that nasty spiritual competition also. I think the most important thing is to focus on Christ and service.

  5. I am just like you. It’s almost eerie LOL. And I appreciate you writing this post because it definitely cleared some things in my mind too. Thank you for sharing something like this with everybody. And you are definitely not alone!

    • This is really a tough concept to swallow, MJ, and I certainly have much to learn and much changing to do myself. It is a paradigm that is, as I said, imbued in us from the cradle. Shedding it can only be done, I think, through the atonement and spirit of Christ.

  6. Can we play a game of chess? Or a friendly tennis match?

    Is there a difference between “law of the jungle” competition that is based on force and the winner actually eats the loser and peaceful, voluntary co-operative competition where gaining actually means serving and making the other person better off?

    Is it bad that say a milk producer introduces a unique product that may attract customers away from existing milk producers? Shall we have a law that makes this not so?

    Will Zion only have one monopoly producer for every product? Who decides?

    • SB, I have always been one to enjoy sports, games, etc. and I always play to win, so I understand your question. Asking “can we…etc” – well, I’m not trying to tell anyone what they can or can’t do. I’m pointing out a lesson that I have learned (observed) in my life, and allowing people to make the same observation and apply it to their lives. Yes – there certainly is a difference as you point out. Take for example, the milk producer…in Zion, that milk producer would willingly and freely share his (or her) discovery with all the other milk producers so that the whole society can benefit. The milk producer wouldn’t even be charging money for his product, so the concept of “customers” doesn’t exist. Only those whom the producer serves. That’s the way I anticipate Zion will operate. I could be wrong, of course, but I’m sure you get my drift. So – Zion is a completely different paradigm.

  7. Perhaps, but substitute “social cooperation” for “competition” and I think you really get to the heart of the matter. Capitalism is the greatest lattice-work of social cooperation there is. It has done more to lift people out of poverty than anything else. It was only a couple of hundred years ago where poverty was the norm. And it is not centrally designed or planned. But an “ordered anarchy” or “spontaneous order” or “natural liberty”. Though you may not like the term customers, we are all still “consumers” and under the auspices of a free society, I will inevitably choose to consume from those according to my personal preferences. “Competition” rightly understood is simply social cooperation, where producers of goods and services are ever trying to serve consumers with better and better products.

    Take for example Leonard Read classic essay, “I, Pencil” to see how this works:

    Consider also Wilhelm Ropke’s example:

    And Adam Smith’s woollen coat example:

    And I don’t think money is a bad thing. It is as necessary to rational economic calculation and planning as mathematics is to a builder. We’ve been so propagandized to see businessmen as evil. Why? Why can’t we celebrate someone who has a talent in business acumen the same way we do a great singer or musician?

    What really is needed is honest money:

    Click to access HonestMoney.pdf


    In great Basin Kingdom, Leonard Arrington notes, “”there was to be freedom of enterprise in production and in the management of properties held as stewardships. There was no provision for the minute and intimate regulation of economic activity which prevailed in some contemporary communitarian societies.”

    He also related the following:

    “…one early Mormon recalled:

    “In those days there was a tendency of feeling that each should share alike in everything, so much so that it was impossible for any man to do business in the mercantile line. A good brother who was needy would think it was selfish if he could not go to a store and get what he wanted without paying the money for it.

    …Let a brother commence the mercantile business, and the first thing he knew his whole capital stock was credited out to the brethren. He could not refuse to credit a brother. O, no! If he did it was said at once that he was selfish and was no friend to the poor.”

    We ought to be careful what we wish for.

    Sorry, I’m bloviating now. Thanks for suffering me. I do find the topic interesting.

    • SB, here’s a fun, historical perspective on “capitalism”:

      Brigham City, under the direction of Lorenzo Snow, achieved 85% self-sufficiency, 100% employment, and cared for all the widows and indigent. They did it by creating monopolies, not competitive monopolies, but cooperative ones. All the tanners worked at the local co-op tannery, all the coopers worked together in one co-op, all the hat makers, etc, etc. During the Big Panic of 1873, Brigham City barely notice the world-wide recession, in fact, they enjoyed their best year ever. Brigham Young complimented Lorenzo and was reported to have said that Snow had gotten all the citizens of Brigham City into a United Order without them even knowing it. They did all this in a free market environment, but NOT a capitalist one.

      Capitalism and the free market are two separate things. Capitalism is ONE WAY of organizing Capital and Labor in a free market. Cooperatives are another way. Capitalism, as defined and popularized first by Karl Marx, is when Capital (those with surplus property) hire Labor (those without surplus property) to produce goods that are then sold in the free market and the profits go to the Capitalist. Brigham City was definitely NOT organized that way, yet, they operated in a free market.

      The 1st time the word “capitalism” was ever spoken in a General Conference talk was by Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, in the October 1919 General Conference. He said, “Sometimes it has been charged that the Church rather favors capitalism. I have never discovered it.”

  8. Let me preface this by saying the explosion of laws, just as the addition of epicycles to Copernican astronomical modelling, is likewise an indication of a flawed, or false, model of reality. The epicycles were intended to preserve a philosophical assertion concerning what was real, and how things ought to relate to one another, more or less.

    The problematic concept which goes unexamined is the notion of private property – the claim that if you touch what I call my shit then I get to kill you. We have weaponized covetousness, and given it the lethal force of law. And since almost all conflict in this world is driven by the desire to grab more and more stuff – beyond simple necessity, seeking to assure ourselves temporal preservation through possessions – the laws must continually grow to match each underhanded technique of stuff-grabbing, or, at the behest of special interests, facilitate such techniques, thus assuring the necessity of more laws as the conflicts and bad results continue to evidence themselves as a result of the crap that went on before.

    Fear drives the grabbing of stuff beyond necessity. Fear is why men enslave one another. Fear is why we abuse and mistreat one another. Money is an outgrowth of fear, a tool of manipulation, intended to facilitate the acquisition and preservation of power – iniquity – among men, by way of controlling the resources of the earth and exploiting the fear of not having enough. After all, you can buy anything in this world with money – and if you haven’t got any, you can’t buy anything in this world.

    You give to someone you love. You sell to someone you don’t, and you profit off of them, to boot. The more you disdain them, the more profit you take.

    That’s why God gives us love for our children, so that we don’t enslave them and use them as a free unit of labor in the game of economics.

  9. Log decries the existence of money, calling it a “tool of manipulation”, ascribing intent to its very existence. (It is “intended to facilitate the acquisition and preservation of power”.) But power in what sense? Power to do good?

    17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
    18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
    19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted. (Jacob 2:17-19.)

    Money has no inherent “intent”. It is merely a store of value — the “value” people ascribe to it, whether that money be gold coins, bits of shell and glass, or electronic algorithms. So why do we need money? As one person noted above, money “is as necessary to rational economic calculation and planning as mathematics is to a builder.” It is merely a yardstick, by which we measure value. Could we live without money? Is a cow “worth” as much as a donut? (How would we know?) Only if someone is willing to trade a cow for a donut! (But carrying cows and donuts in our pockets may prove problematic.)

    A utopian system where “everyone has enough” and everyone “shares and shares alike” is possible. It may even function without money!

    We’ve just never seen it.

    • Will, of course what you say is true. I know I said, “money is the root of all evil” and of course that is a rhetorical exaggeration. There was evil before there was money, and there could be good with money. As I tried to say, though, the same principle that makes it more efficient to carry coins in my pocket instead of cows, make it easier to accumulate and hoard value. My intent is to prompt people to open their eyes and recognize the thought processes that, as long as they are perpetuated, will make Zion impossible. Thanks for reading this.

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