Most people at Penn were the strongest students in high school and feel the need to make a name for themselves at this new school. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done and leads to competition between students. We compete for the highest grades in classes, admission to the most elite A Cappella groups, and leadership positions in student government. However, at what point does all of the competition in our lives become unhealthy? As is the case for all issues we face in our lives, the Bible speaks clearly about this topic.
Where does our worth come from?
It is my opinion that many people are engrossed in unhealthy competition because they do not understand where their worth comes from. They think it comes from their performance in college, but it actually comes straight from the Lord.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
– Psalm 139:14 NASB
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
– Matthew 10:29-31 NASB
The Bible reminds us that God loved us so much that He would die a humiliating death for us. He had those whom He would call to be believers in mind before time began and lovingly laid out grace-filled plans of salvation and blessing for us. He had given us far more than we could ask for or hope for, and He has done this because of His great love.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; [d]though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
– Romans 5:6-8 NASB
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.
– Ephesians 1:3-14 NASB
If our worth comes from God, does it matter how we compare to our classmates?
Why do you feel the need to compete?
If you feel the need to compete with and compare yourselves to your classmates at Penn, you might want to see where those desires are coming. The Bible is clear that we need to carefully examine the thoughts we dwell on.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
– Philippians 4:8 ESV
I know that my competitive thoughts are never true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy. In my experience, these thoughts are based on pride and jealousy.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
– Proverbs 16:18 ESV
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
– Galations 6:3 ESV
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
James 3:16 ESV
If all of this is true, how should we approach Penn’s competitive atmosphere in a God honoring way. First, God teaches us that we should do good works on Earth.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
– Ephesians 2:10 NASB
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
– Matthew 5:16 NASB
But instead of comparing our deeds to other Penn students, we should be comparing ourselves to Jesus Christ. We should strive to be more like him everyday.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
– Ephesians 5:1 ESV
What should we do when we don’t think we measure up?
While many students at Penn are competing with their peers, other students are simply trying to pass their classes. God has not forgotten these students. In fact, we all have moments at Penn where we feel inadequate. Jesus tells us not to worry when we go through rough times at school. He is in control, and He will see us through.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
– Matthew 6:26-30 NASB
Note from Katherine
At Penn, it seems as if every student is perfect. What I sometimes fail to remember is that people are more likely to brag about the great things that are happening in their lives than to discuss the areas where they need to improve. As I talk to more and more friends at Penn, it is clear that everyone is struggling in one way or another. Some people have a great social life but aren’t doing well in their classes. Other people are doing well in their classes, but feel very alone and homesick. I’ve met people who were disappointed because they were not admitted into an extracurricular activity at Penn that their world revolved around during high school. The truth of the matter is that everyone is struggling in one way or another. Looks can be deceiving. Instead of competing with each other, we need to raise each other up.