When I was younger one my favourite conversations with my friends was about who was greater Pele or Ian Wright, Pele or Gazza, Pele or Lineker. We would have long protracted and frankly impossible to prove debates comparing players who would never even have to compete. The other day I flicked on the radio and two fully grown adults were having a very similar, very impassioned argument about Messi and Pele. ‘Who is the greatest’ said the presenter in earnest … you decide!
In the very next chapter of the bible after the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis we get the story of Cain and Abel.
Murder enters the world.
Murder stirred by jealousy and misplaced competition. Cain and Abel were never supposed to be in competition with each other for the affection of God. Both of them could have had affection from God at the same time. Cain’s jealous response of murderous competition literally pushing his brother out of the way rather than just trying to stay in his lane and do what God asked him to do. Cain’s response could have been a re-dedication of himself towards diligently engaging with the calling he had before the Lord. Instead he thought the success of his brother was a direct competition to his own success.
It seems obvious to us that this irrelevant competition between Cain and Abel was a terrible mistake. Yet as I listened to the angry debate on the radio insisting on comparing Messi and Pele and trying to put one down compared to the other I realised how rife this thinking is in this world, in our culture, in my life. We (perhaps read I) seem hardwired to feel like the success of another is to the detriment to ourselves. Yet God has a unique calling for us all. We aren’t meant to be competing against each other. Indeed we’re all on the same team. Cain seemed to think the success of his brother might diminish his own success. I am reminded today to choose to celebrate my brothers and sisters as they succeed, as people say they are brilliant, as people recognise their gifts. There is no lack of success in the kingdom – God wants us all to be successful, fruitful, living. When one of us succeeds we must remember to celebrate wildly the wonder of the gifting and talent he has placed in our brothers and sisters without becoming drawn into feeling competitive with them. We must remember that when we’re not getting it right the response can never be to tear another down. It will never actually get us what we want. Murdering Abel never got Cain the acceptance or breakthrough he longed for. Quite the opposite.
We must choose to live another way.