Zero Sum Game Part I
"Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice . . ." Proverbs 24:17
I’ve recently discovered something about myself. I like to win. I hate losing. I like the feeling of victory. Winning feels good to me. I definitely have a competitive streak. And sometimes that’s good. It keeps me going when things get tough in life. It helps me not quit. It can make me ambitious; tenacious; or as a former client called me, a “little barracuda”.
But sometimes, this streak is what keeps me from being what God would be pleased with. And every now and again, this reality rears its ugly head. Such a time happened the other day and forced me to think about something differently.
I have been in the process of evicting a tenant from one of our investment properties. It was a case of when my husband and I were being to nice for too long. We like to help people out if they get in a jam, but after a while, there’s only but so much you can do. So as much as it pains us to do so, we needed to ask her to go. She of course, wanted to stay, but didn’t have all of the money she owed us, so our answer was no. Then she (pardon my expression) pissed us off. She and her “fiance” decided that they would use this occasion to tell us everything that’s wrong with the property and how we were the worst landlords ever. But of course they wanted to stay in this horrible property with these horrible landlords. So in that moment when they began to tell us how horrible we were, my competitive streak came out. Because now, in this case, I need to win. But not just win. I need her to LOSE. Now I wanted to inflict pain on her in my winning. It wouldn’t have been enough for me to get the better end of the deal here. I also needed her to get the short end of the stick somehow. And every scenario that I thought of to remedy the situation ended in her losing and me winning.
Here’s where the Holy Spirit gets on my nerves (yeah I said it). Because we’ve been praying our way through the process. And I found myself last week praying something that I know in my flesh I would not want to pray. I prayed that God would help us to remember that she too belongs to Him and we would seek the outcome that would be best for all of us. Now while it’s true that I don’t want to see anyone homeless. I also don’t want to go broke trying to pay other people’s living expenses either. And while I do want my money (which I may never get), I also wanted her to feel bad about the whole thing. I didn’t want her to even feel like she won a little bit. But in my prayer, that’s not what I said.
Of course after praying something like that, my eyes were open to other possibilities of how to get an outcome good for everyone. But I was ashamed of how a win-win situation was not even a desire of mine initially. I really wanted her to lose somehow. But fortunately for us all, I have been redeemed. And I yielded to how God was leading me instead of what I wanted.
This is the hard part about being a Christian. You know what you want to do, and even will get support for your desire from other people. But then there’s this voice inside of you that speaks truth. And you have to make a decision. This voice will reveal just how deep sin goes in our life. Not just the stuff we can see easily, but the stuff that lies underneath it all. The part of us that wants to win at the expense of another who we feel has wronged us, or even if they haven’t wronged us. But the Kingdom of God is not a zero-sum game for us. The only one who has the authority to play a zero sum game is Jesus, who played it with the devil and won at the devil’s expense. That’s actually the only victory that matters in the grand scheme of things. Because for us mere mortals, we don’t have enough perfection in us to have an enemy greater than sin. So me competing against anyone else to make myself feel better is pointless. Without Jesus, I would still lose. But with Him, I ultimately win.
If put into proper perspective, this revelation can keep me from seeking to raise myself above another in conversations, business dealings, relationships, pretty much anything in life. But if I think that the only way I win is if someone else loses, then sin will have its way with me. So as much as it pains me to do so, I’ve been given a measure of grace by God to still show some mercy to my (soon to be former) tenant. And in the end, I’ll be just fine. Not gonna lie though, I felt like I died a little in the process, because I did. And that’s not fun. But I do love and fear God more than her or anyone else involved. So to Him, I submit. Now y'all pray I get some money out of this. (If I was a good Christian, I would say that the fact that I have God is enough, but I don’t know if I’m that mature yet. So I’d like cash too :-)