God created the race of men to rule; God created us to conquer the earth and rule over his magnificent creation. From the moment of the Fall, however, the power and capacity that were originally a blessing, designed to provide purpose and honor for life, became corrupt. Men selfishly and cruelly began to exert their power over each other, enforcing their own rules rather than submitting together to the rule of God. Even so, this corruption should not detract from what God originally called (and still calls) us to do. God made and mandated mankind to rule! This is the mandate from Genesis 1:28:
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”
To our detriment, we often view the concept of “rule” through the twisted lens of our current fallen state and allow the concept of “power” to be defined by its corrupted misuse. Without the clear light of the Bible we cannot grasp what it means to rule well.
Human power and rule are no different than other God-given responsibilities: people were created to live well to bring honor to God. Part of our spiritual DNA is to rule, to conquer, to excel, and, yes, even to win. We were made to bring honor to God by winning. Taken in this light, it is not surprising that humans love to compete, to win. True, our competition is often self-centered and even ugly—but this does not mean that wanting to conquer, rule or win is wrong necessarily.
Doing well at work, at school, on the athletic field, or in music is a manifestation of being made in the image of God. The drive to excel only becomes a problem when people, according to their fallen, sinful nature, seek to compete and excel for their own glory instead of God’s.
This perspective has an important application for children: Children love to play games and love to win. There is nothing wrong with playing to win. The problems come, however, when a child cannot rejoice when someone else wins or is better at a sport or game than he is. We all should seek to encourage others in their victory or accomplishment. When children, or adults for that matter, become despondent at the success of others, our attitude displays a form of coveting; we want the victory or prize so much that we are angry when someone else has it and we don’t.
So, positively, it is a good thing to compete, to rule, to achieve. But these things must be done to bring honor to God and not to ourselves. What gives significance to life is living for the glory and honor of God. Whatever task we are given, we should focus on the over-arching goal of blessing others and honoring God, whether at work or at play.
I believe we need to rethink what it means to compete and win according to the mandate given to all of us at creation. The apostle Paul certainly echoes this goal when he says to the Colossians and the Corinthians:
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I Corinthians 9:24