Corrupting Influences

Competitiveness is poison.

Genesis 30:9-13 (ESV)

When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Then Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. And Leah said, “Good fortune has come!” so she called his name Gad. Leah's servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. And Leah said, “Happy am I! For women have called me happy.” So she called his name Asher.

Wow. Leah is one of the real greats of the Bible. Her humble upbringing has given her a magnificent heart. There’s no hint here of resentment or competitiveness. She’s just happy to be happy. These two sons’ names mean “good fortune” and “happy.” That’s in stark contrast to how Rachel named her two surrogate sons.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s catchy and close to the truth but not the whole story. Success is just as corrupting, especially any kind of popularity. Politicians, movie stars, sports stars and famous musicians struggle with the corrupting influence of popularity. Even popular schoolgirls display this. Their cutthroat attitude can be chilling.

But Leah’s repeated “Mother of the Year” status never goes to her head. She’s happy – and she lets everyone know – but there’s nothing wrong with that. Where Rachel sees competition and judgement, Leah sees only good fortune and joy. She doesn’t see her gain as Rachel’s loss.

But with only one Jacob, who must divide his time between the two (or four!) women, there is one unavoidable competitive aspect to this.

Leah will get hurt again.


Power (or popularity) doesn’t actually corrupt; it just brings out the corruption that’s already there. The real problem is our sin. You don’t have to be a star to struggle with that.

Competitiveness is poison. Christians need to avoid that like the plague. That’s harder than it sounds. Competition pervades our culture, and anyone raised in this country is infected with it. Some of us are better than others at suppressing this, but it’s always a challenge. Besides, suppressing it doesn’t attack the root problem. We need help.

Big sanctification issues are the purview of the Holy Spirit. Serious prayer is the way to change your heart. You have to ask God to open your eyes to your competitive spirit.

An accountability partner helps too. Our own eyes are terrible at seeing our faults. A real friend, one who will call you out, can be invaluable.

Too many of us aren’t in serious, ongoing accountability relationships. If you have one but you haven’t been called out in a long time (i.e., in months) you need to turn it up a notch.

No one goes months without needed to be called out.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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