I’m a Food Network competition junkie.
For me, culinary artistry paired with some sort of outlandish rivalry is the perfect mix. Whether it’s Chopped or Cupcake Wars, I love to see what chefs will prepare under pressure with less-than-ideal ingredients.
My favorite show?
If you aren’t familiar with this series, it’s where “sabotage isn’t only encouraged, it’s for sale.”
At the start of each episode, super-host Alton Brown hands four chefs $25,000 each. These stacks of cash are intended for that-less-than-friendly purpose I mentioned. Yep, that’s right, sabotage. Before and during the show’s three rounds, the competitors are given opportunities to use this money to purchase what I like to call “specialty items” at auction.
Sometimes these items provide one chef with an advantage while adding injury to his or her opponents. For example, the highest bidder can purchase “the sole right to taste” or “the only chef allowed to fry.”
Other times these items just throw metaphorical arsenic into a foe’s recipe for success. One rival is given Reynolds Wrap in place of utensils. Yep, first they have to sculpt a make-shift knife and spoon before they can even start prepping. Another has their standard eggs swapped for one, huge ostrich egg. Happy boiling … or not.
While I love to observe this battle of strategy and sabotage on TV, it’s not something I crave in my real, day-to-day life. Yet this idea of sabotage — which Dictionary.com defines as “any undermining of a cause” — isn’t confined to the Food Network. Or to high-stakes business deals. There are times you and I sabotage, whether purposefully or not, the unity God intends and desires for our marriages.
The truth is it’s not so hard to turn our marital relationship into a game of cutthroat marriage.
It happens every time we put “me” — and not Jesus — at the center of our marriages.
When our hunger to win trumps our passion for peace.
When we decide being right is more important than being united.
When having the last word becomes the ultimate prize.
How can we make sure we aren’t engaging in a game of cutthroat marriage?
In one of my favorite New Testament books, James addresses the issue of disunity within the body of Christ. He writes in James 4:1-2:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
In this chapter, James doesn’t merely pinpoint that it’s me-centeredness that’s sabotaging these first-century relationships. He goes on to offer strong instructions on how to remedy it in verses 7-10:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
Let’s pause and chew on that. Let’s savor that for a moment.
When me-centeredness threatens to undermine our marriages, these “specialty items” that James presents to his readers are things you and I can and should employ.
We can resist the hunger to win arguments.
We can purify our hearts of the need to be right.
We can humble ourselves by swallowing that last word.
To what end? Unity, peace, joy, growth.
And do you know what the best part is? We don’t have to fork over any William McKinleys or Grover Clevelands to purchase these items. When we draw near to God and seek to put Him at the center of our marriage — and not ourselves — He freely equips us with these advantages. He gives us His Word and His Spirit to help us.
It’s a strategy that may not go far on Cutthroat Kitchen. But I’ll tell you this, it goes a long way in protecting the unity of our marriages. And to me, that’s worth a whole lot more than $25,000.