In today’s competitive world, you would seldom see a person wishing that their fellow workers or competitors do better than they would themselves. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Consider for a moment the change of Prime Ministers we have had over recent years in Australia. Or consider the rivalry and jealousy in some sporting clubs between players on the same team. Often these things are driven by selfish jealousy.
One place where you wouldn’t expect to see this selfish jealousy or rivalry is between Christian denominations, churches or even ministries within the local church. Yet, there are occasions when Christian denominations and churches within a denomination, often driven by selfish jealousy, go out of their way to either find fault or try to outdo each other. Sometimes, Christians involved in a particular ministry will feel threatened and will jealously guard their ‘bit of turf,’ even though you simply wanted to offer some help.
We should not be surprised for it has happened before. John the Baptist’s disciples had noticed and were offended that a man (Jesus) whom John had baptised in the river Jordan a few days earlier was now baptizing and even worse, more people were going to Him for baptism than John the Baptist. Oh, the danger of selfish jealousy when denominations, churches or even Christians are more concerned with their recognition and glory than the glory of Christ.
Now I am not suggesting that all denominations, churches or Christians are as faithful as they could be for the cause of Christianity and the glory of God’s name. We could all do better. However, we do well to take the same mind as John the Baptist to heart when he answered his disciples. John’s joy was complete when he saw Jesus becoming greater and he was becoming less.
So, before selfish jealousy or a spirit of rivalry arises in our hearts, may we have the same mind as John the Baptist. If we see real grace and a genuine attempt to promote Christ and his kingdom, let us be humble enough to acknowledge it, even when it doesn’t quite fit into our theological framework or the way we would do it.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, recognized that some preached Christ out of envy and rivalry, some even out of selfish ambition. For Paul, that wasn’t a reason to be jealous, but a reason for rejoicing. Paul even says that it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that whether from false or true motives, Christ is preached” (Phil 1:15-18).
Dear Christian worker, if sinners are brought to repentance and true faith in Christ, irrespective of the means God has employed to bring them to that point, we ought to rejoice and give thanks, just as the angels and God the Father are doing in heaven (Luke 15:7,10). As John reminds us, “He must become greater; I (we) must become less” (Jn 3:30). JZ