God Is a Sports Fan
by Ryan Duncan
Back when I was in college, I witnessed a "debate" between one of my Bible Professors and a Philosophy major. What were they "debating" about? Was it the idea of a Triune God? The infallibility of Scripture? Predestination? Actually, it was about Football.
The Super Bowl had come around again, and the Philosophy Major was arguing that sports, at their core, drew our focus away from God and should therefore be considered idols. His basis for this was that every student would be watching the game Sunday night, and would probably skip Chapel Monday morning.
I had to admit he had a point, some students made a habit of sleeping through the schools 10 am chapel services, but when there was a game of Ultimate Frisbee or Soccer they never failed to show up. I tried to imagine what Church would be like if people came the same way they did for a Super Bowl, bodies painted and ready to celebrate. Maybe we were losing our focus.
Still, did that really make sports an idol? That seemed a little extreme to me. It would be years later when I'd find the answer in a familiar story, Matthew 25:14-26, the Parable of the Talents.
14 "Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.
19 "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,' he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.'
21 "His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
22 "The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,' he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.'
23 "His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
24 "Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,' he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'
26 "His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
Traditionally, we are taught that this passage relates to our spiritual gifts, but I believe the talents of this parable can also be used to represent our faith in Christ.
Sometimes we Christian become afraid of God. We know God is a harsh master, asking us to stand against an entire world that has turned against him, and we fear that if we start enjoying things in this world like Football or Soccer that they'll steal our faith from us.
So, instead of interacting with the world and engaging it with our faith, we bury it in the Bible to keep it safe, like the third servant. We turn our lives into one endless Bible study. Problem is, when the Master returns, when God calls us into his service, we discover that our faith hasn't grown! We've spent our entire lives studying how to be a Christian, but never actually living as one.
Honestly, I think God wants us to be part of this world. He wants us to enjoy games of sports, to write stories and poetry, to study math and science and discover more about his creations. Yes, we need to be careful these things don't replace God, but when handled correctly, they allow us to engage the world, enjoy our faith, and understand those we are called to witness to.
Intersecting Faith and Life
Do you have an unhealthy fear of God? Take some time and study the character of Jesus.
The Characters of Christmas is a podcast created to help you take a fresh look at the Christmas story by getting to know the minor characters that played a part in Jesus’ birth. It is the companion to Dan Darling's book "The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up in the Story of Jesus."