When I play checkers with my six year-old nephew, I play to win. Ryan is a good checker player and I honor him when I give my very best in the spirit of competition. I do not, however, take unfair advantage in order to win, for if I did, I fear I would lose a worthy partner. Ryan and I play by the rules (which sometimes include pointing out an opportunity for a double-jump).
Although competitive struggle is accepted in sport, is it appropriate for Christia
Competition is a word of paradox. Derived from the Latin com, ‘together’, and petre, ‘to strive or seek’, to compete literally mea
Must competition be perceived as a zero-sum game in which there are only winners and losers? Surely Paul was not suggesting that only one will get the prize. The premise of zero-sum games is competition for limited resources, yet this need not be the case in the market environment. Stewardship is a Biblical theme, but scarcity is not:
Among the things for which huma
Must competition be polemic to cooperation, where one is evil and the other good? Professional ministers often possess congenial temperaments appropriate to their role as conciliators. Expecting the same of all, regardless of profession, amounts to idolatry of the pastoral personality. God’s creation is described as a “vast array.” The body of Christ is composed of many different parts. There is no single Christian personality. Cooperation and competition coexist without being opposite.
Is competition synonymous with conflict? This view charges that business, being essentially competitive, puts a premium on conflict, and is thus morally reprehe
The enthronement of competition, motivated solely by individual desire, is destructive. “The fashionable philosophy of individualism,” writes Patrick Bateson, “draws its respectability in part from an appeal to … the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection.” Biology is believed to be all about competition – and that supposedly mea
Competition is corrupted, and becomes dehumanizing, when the focus is on personal power or honor. “If one’s economic drive represents the desire for a higher status than one’s fellows, it is a drive toward isolation.” “Where competition involves the search for dominion over another human being…, then violence is done to the values of the Christian gospel.” When Jesus war
War and sport-based metaphors used in the marketplace malign the true nature of economic enterprise as a human activity. If sport celebrates the myth of success, the morality of self-reliance, and reward of hard work, it becomes a ‘microcosm of meritocracy.’ Competition is corrupted when its goal is the crushing of another.
Competition and the Human Condition
No presentation of the problem of competition is complete without co
With moral conceptio
By avoiding competition, monopolies and cartels undermine free enterprise, resulting in oppressive pricing of goods and services.
There are real challenges associated with competition in the marketplace. As unvarnished history, the Bible records competitive activity: Cain and Abel; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his brothers. In Luke 22:24, a dispute (philoneikia – ‘love of strife, eagerness to contend’) broke out among the apostles over who was greatest among them. Much of 1 Corinthia
Competition Needs Boundaries
Some passages seem to speak directly agai
Just as games have boundaries called rules, business has boundaries called ethics. Without rules, a game is not a game. In poker, bluffing is okay, but a marked deck is not. Friendly competition between basketball players on the same team is tolerable only i
“Business competition is indeed competition, but it is competition severely restricted within the limits of law and general co
You should cooperate with other lice
Documented ethical codes are merely written versio
Competition, Cooperation and Community
Cooperation is the basis for competition. Laura Nash describes the concept applied to competition as coming from a genuine evangelical impulse for benevolence. The terms of competition may be rearranged to take into account the interests of others. The unconditional nature of this thinking reflects elements of Christian love and a worldview based on relational thinking rather than merely legalistic measures. You don’t give up ‘loving your neighbor’ just because it might cost you something. Nash’s Covenantal Business Ethic, while helpful, is somewhat naïve. Any competition based on long-term vision already operates this way – Christian or otherwise.
To compete used to mean to ‘beat.’ Today, it mea
“The need to be more ‘competitive’ is more often than not better cast as the need to be more cooperative.”
While in the competitive field of real estate sales, I often met with top producers in my area. When Larry Hahn shared his ‘secrets’ with me, I was grateful and astounded and asked why he had been so generous: “First, we are not only competitors, but cooperators in listings and sales. Second, anything I share that improves the image of our profession benefits us all. And third,” he added with a smile, “by the time you learn to do what I’m doing as will as I do, I’ll be doing something else.”
Cooperation is integral to competition, and both are linked to community. A survey of the ‘one-another’ commands of the Bible demo
However competitive a particular industry may be, it always rests on a foundation of shared interests and mutually agreed-upon rules of conduct, and the competition takes place not in a jungle but in a society that it presumably both serves and depends upon. Business life, unlike life in the mythological jungle, is first of all fundamentally cooperative.
“Mutual trust and respect work because they maintain social cohesion.”
Competition, defined by cooperation, is good because it nourishes community. Cooperation is an essential and pleasurable part of being human. Competition validates a theme of excellence in the Bible, and for enduring success, requires integrity: “competing for co
“If there is a market, there will be competitors. If there are no competitors, very likely there is no market.” Competition is not a zero-sum game and it is not less Christian than cooperation. It is well-documented in Scripture as part and parcel of the human condition, and therefore subject to sin. However, unless motivated solely by the desire for personal power, competition is appropriate for Christia
Bateson, Patrick. “Co-operation.” Theology 89 (January 1986): 5-10.
Canadian Dental Association. Code of Ethics. 1990.
Cragin, John. “The Business of
Dalla Costa, John. Working Wisdom: The Ultimate Value in the New Economy.
Feldballe, Jack and Laura L. Nash, eds. “Beyond Legal Obligation.” Sojourners 29 no. 1 (Jan-Feb 2000): 23.
Ford, Kevin Graham and James P. Osterhaus. The Thing in the Bushes: Turning Organizational Blind Spots into Competitive Advantage.
Grudem, Wayne. “How Business in Itself Can Glorify God.” In On Kingdom Business: Tra
Herberg, Will. “Business
Hoffman, Shirl J. “The Sanctification of Sport: Can the Mind of Christ Co-exist with the Killer I
Jones, Donald G., ed. Business, Religion and Ethics: Inquiry and Encounter.
Jukes, John. “Christianity and Wealth Creation: Competition and the Values Demanded by the Christian Gospel.” in God and the Marketplace: Essays on the Morality of Wealth Creation. Davies, Jon, ed.
Klay, Robin and Christopher Gryzen. “Six Economic Myths Heard from the Pulpit.” Christian Century Vol. 112, Issue 6 (
Mill, John Stuart. “Private Property and Its Critics” in On Moral Business: Classic and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life, Max L. Stackhouse, Dennis P. McCann, et al. eds., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdma
Moore, Geoff. “Beyond Competition.” in God and the Marketplace: Essays on the Morality of Wealth Creation. Davies, Jon, ed.
Nash, Laura L. Believers in Business.
________. Good Intentio
Quek, Peter. “Competition.” in The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity. Robert Banks and R.
Solomon, Robert C. and Kristine R. Ha
Solomon, Robert C. Ethics and Excellence: Cooperation and Integrity in Business.
Stackhouse, Max L. et al. On Moral Business: Classic and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life.
Volf, Miroslav. Work in the Spirit: Toward a Theology of Work.
Watts, Peter. Real Estate Practice and Ethics.
 All Scripture quotatio
 1 Corinthia
 Acts 15:36-41. Barnabas was a land-owner with a bias for action (see Acts ).
 Donald G. Jones, ed., Business, Religion and Ethics: Inquiry and Encounter (Cambridge, Mass.: Oelgeschlager, Gunn & Hain, 1982), 65.
 Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 348.
 Patrick Bateson, “Co-operation,” Theology 89 (January 1986): 5-7.
 Jones, Business, Religion and Ethics, 106.
 John Jukes, “Christianity and Wealth Creation: Competition and the Values Demanded by the Christian Gospel,” in God and the Marketplace: Essays on the Morality of Wealth Creation, Jon Davies, ed. (
 Luke 6:24.
 Shirl J. Hoffman, “The Sanctification of Sport: Can the Mind of Christ Co-exist with the Killer I
 The exception to this statement is when God himself crushes that which is evil. This is prophesied in
 See Psalm 53:3; 14:3 and Roma
 First described by Adam Smith in Wealth of Natio
 John Stuart Mill, “Private Property and Its Critics” in On Moral Business: Classic and Contemporary Resources for Ethics in Economic Life, Max L. Stackhouse, Dennis P. McCann, et al. eds., (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdma
 Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 345.
 Exodus 20:17, 23:5; Matthew 5:43-44; Roma
 Leviticus 25.
 Geoff Moore, “Beyond Competition,” in God and the Marketplace: Essays on the Morality of Wealth Creation, Jon Davies, ed. (
 Robert C. Solomon and Kristine R. Ha
 Jones, Business, Religion and Ethics, 66.
 Canadian Dental Association, Code of Ethics, 1990.
 Peter Watts, Real Estate Practice and Ethics (Vancouver: The British Columbia Real Estate Association, 7th ed., May 1991), 54.
 Laura L. Nash, Believers in Business (Vancouver: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994), 89-94. See also Luke 6:31 and Luke 10:27.
 Laura L. Nash Good Intentio
 John Dalla Costa, Working Wisdom: The Ultimate Value in the New Economy (Toronto: Stoddart, 1995), 267.
 Robert C. Solomon, Ethics and Excellence: Cooperation and Integrity in Business (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 8-9.
 Larry Hahn is a realtor with Re/max Real Estate in
 Solomon and Ha
 Solomon, Ethics and Excellence, 26.
 Bateson, “Co-operation,” 7.
 See Colossia
 Peter Quek, “Competition,” in The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, Robert Banks and R.
 Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, 347.
 John Cragin, “The Business of