Who won? Who lost? Who came in first? Who came in first? Most importantly…who’s the best?
You don’t have to spend a lot of time with me to know that I am competitive person. That’s just how God made me. I can turn just about anything into a competition. Even fun relaxing activities – like swimming with the family at the pool – inevitably turns into a “who can hold their breath underwater the longest” competition with my ultra-competitive daughter.
I like to compete. And when I compete – while I agree 100% with the idea that the most important thing is to have fun – I’ve always felt that WINNING the competition is the best way to have fun! Winning is the most fun isn’t it?
But then there’s the spiritual life – “the race that is set before us” as the Bible says. Is there a winner and a loser in spirituality? Are some people more spiritual than others? Is there a ranking – like a top 25 – of spirituality and who is most spiritual? Is that how this game is played?
I am not talking about some people finding salvation and others missing it; I am talking about those of us inside the family of God, those are who part of His household. Who is the winner in spirituality? Who is the top person that we should all become like? Does such a person even exist?
For example, let’s take two relatively recent well-known figures who accomplished a lot for the cause of Christianity: Mother Theresa and Billy Graham. Everyone knows what Mother Theresa did (served the poorest of the poor in Calcutta) and everyone knows what Billy Graham did (preached the gospel all over the country to hundreds of thousands).
Which one is more spiritual in God’s eyes? Who gets the MVP trophy in heaven?
If serving the poor is of higher rank, then Mother Theresa gets it. She wins. But if preaching the gospel is the most important thing, then Billy Graham gets it hands down and Mother Theresa might not even be in the top 100 for her generation.
So which one is it? Who wins?
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:6-8
One of the things that I feel passionate about is the idea that God created us all differently and we don’t need to fit into one mold of godliness or spirituality. Sometimes we in the Church fall into the trap of trying to make everyone the same. We think to ourselves “this is what worked for me so therefore it must be the best for everyone else.”
For example, one might think “God clearly cares about the poor and therefore everyone must do some kind of service for the poor. And everyone must vote for the candidate that will do the most for the poor. And everyone needs to give all their extra money to this organization that helps the poor.”
But another person is thinking to themselves “God commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature. We must spread His Word by all means. Everyone needs to take a mission trip or give to a missions organization or support this missionary.”
Who's right? Who's the more spiritual here?
The problem with this way of thinking is that it goes against the unique manner in which God created us - see Psalm 139:13-14. God may not have created you with the skills or aptitude to preach like Billy Graham. Does that mean you’re bad? God may not have given you the spiritual gift to be able to serve the poor like Mother Theresa did, does that mean you aren’t spiritual? What if Billy Graham thought this way and didn’t preach the gospel because he kept trying to fit himself into some Mother-Theresa-sized shoes? Where would that leave the world today?
The key principle that I believe so many inside the Church miss out is this: God loves diversity. God loves variety. He doesn’t want everyone to look the same or do the same thing. God created us uniquely and we need to stop trying to fit everyone into one common mold.
Who's more spiritual:
- Peter or Paul? The one who preached to Jews or the one who preached to the Gentiles?
- Moses or Joshua? The one who parted the Red Sea or the one who parted the Jordan river?
- David or Samuel? The one who fought wars or the one who prayed through wars?
There’s no answer to those questions. Each one of us has to give account to God for the gifts and talents He gave us. As it says in 1 Corinthians 4:2 “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”
Faithful doesn’t mean being the best. It means taking what I’ve been given – my talents, my gifts, my personality, etc. – and using it for the purpose intended by God.
Stop trying to fit some kind of spiritual mold. Yes it’s good to learn from one another and from past examples. But you must know that you are a unique creation and there isn’t another person across this planet – who ever HAS lived or who ever WILL live – that is like unique like you. When God made you, He didn’t use a template; instead He broke the mold!
For discussion: how can we do a better job of appreciating the variety and diversity that God has created in us?