Monday, February 19, 1996

What's Wrong with Sports?

Note: I wrote this before God saved me. Some of these things I may disagree with now.

Americans are obsessed with sports. Stadiums and arenas dot the country. Any newspaper worth its salt has a section on sports, while television and radios carry up-to-the-second coverage. School children compete to "make the team" and prove their athletic abilities.

Is this obsession what God would have for Americans? Are sports a harmless habit or a hazardous addiction? The answers to these questions are not simple. But following you'll find a list of Biblical principles which should help you evaluate your relationship to sports.

1. Competition is unbiblical. Before you disagree, let's define competition. Competition is "having the goal of winning by causing another person to lose."

Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB) commands, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others." 1 Corinthians 13:5 agrees: "[love] seeketh not her own..."

Instead of competing so you will win and someone else will lose, why not play so both of you win? This requires a mental attitude of not caring whether you win or lose. When a game becomes "serious" it is no longer a game!

One problem with competition is that it teaches children they are only valuable when they perform well. The good players often ridicule the poor players, and even parents can reinforce this when they speak highly of a good player but reserve only a "good job" for their own child. This can lead to lack of self-acceptance.

Even for children who are good in sports, a competitive environment can drive them to a lack of self-acceptance. They think, "I'm only worth something when I do well, so I've got to keep ahead of everyone else." When they cannot measure up to their own standards, they usually berate themselves (at least in their minds, and often out loud).

Another pitfall competitive children (and adults) face is pride over their athletic abilities, which is also forbidden in Philippians 2:3.

2. Sports can become gods. It is possible to become so enthralled with sports as to make it an idol. Although most Christians involved in sports would deny it, we can put games before God all too easily. What else are we to assume of Christians who spend more on tickets to games than they tithe to their church; who spend more time watching, listening to, reading about, and playing sports than they do reading the Bible and praying? In Phoenix, many people have plastered "Go Suns!" signs in their windows. But I have yet to see a "Go God!" sign in a window! Perhaps a friend of ours was correct when he suggested the names of sporting games should be changed to "foot Baal", "base Baal", etc.

3. Sports usually have no eternal value. Face it: kicking a ball around usually doesn't promote relationships. Especially when you've just been flattened by a linebacker and you're really wishing you could return the favor. The exception, of course, is when a game is played in a friendly, non-competitive way such as between family members. But watching a game on television as a family does not build relationships, because the only interaction is usually, "Hey, you're standing in front of the T.V.! Sit down!"

4. Children's sports can easily lead to peer dependence. When a child (or adult) plays on a team, after time he or she will develop a cohesive, loyal attitude toward the other team members. Cohesiveness is necessary for a team to be successful. The problem arises when a child carries the loyalty into other areas than sports. For example, imagine that the "star" player of a team uses the word "cool" a lot. Other children on the team will imitate him. If one player is disrespectful to his parents, the other players may talk that way to their parents. In short, the cohesiveness of a team multiplies the negative effect of peer pressure.

5. Certain sports are physically dangerous. Some sports can expose players to an unnecessary risk of physical injury. Football is the most hazardous, but injuries of baseball, basketball, and soccer players are not uncommon.

6. Sports in which girls play can be "defrauding." The worst in this regard are sports played between teenage boys and girls. The combination of immodest clothing worn during most sports and the physical contact necessary for certain sports can cause a male onlooker or player to have improper thoughts, violating Job 31:1, Phil. 4:8 and Matt. 5:28.

7. Historically, sports were the hobby of heathens. In fact, the word gymnasium comes from a Greek word which means "to exercise naked." Athlete comes from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, skills, and warfare.

8. Hero-worship can develop, especially among children and teens. Some sports fans begin to "worship" a player or team. They may hang pictures, talk constantly about their hero, wear special clothes promoted by this person, or go to great lengths to get an autograph. Besides the obvious waste of time, money and energy expended on these pursuits, the "worshipper" may follow the hero's example in other areas. And many times sports figures live sinful, selfish lives. Should we emulate someone for their awesome abilities or their Christlike character?

9. Selection of team members can be very destructive. One of the worst inventions of informal sports is the method of choosing teams. Typically, two captains are chosen. They get to pick who will be on their team. Invariably, the best players are chosen first, and the clumsiest are left until the end. This develops an attitude of pride in the best players and a feeling of worthlessness in the "wimps." Drawing straws, casting lots, or even "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" is a much better way to pick players.

Are there any "safe" sports? Absolutely. Many "normal" games like volleyball, baseball, relay races, and tug-of-war can be played in a friendly, relationship-building way. Instead of competing with each other, the two sides can work together towards the goal of allowing everyone to have a good time. To discern whether a sport is one you should be involved in, use the following checklist as a guide:

This sport:

allows everyone to have a good time

builds relationships

is not an idol to me

does not promote peer-dependence

does not lead to hero-worship

does not cause pride

does not harm a poor player's self-acceptance

uses a random method of picking teams

does not cause defrauding

is physically safe

Daniel has been homeschooled for twelve years and lives with his parents in Phoenix, Arizona.

Wednesday, January 17, 1996


If a sloth can have an opposite, it is certainly the squirrel. Were there psychologists for animals, the entire sciuridae family would no doubt be diagnosed with ADHD. And if the forest animals decided to hold a circus, you can be sure these puffy-tailed, tree-climbing, branch-leaping fellows would be the star attraction.

The squirrel is energy incarnate. Whatever he does, whether it is chasing a relative or stealing bird food from a feeder, he does it quickly, and smartly, and eagerly. Even when he is not dashing or climbing at top speeds, you can see his eyes are alert, his mind is racing, and he is scheming ahead.

The squirrel defies the law that haste makes waste. He scurries to and fro, seemingly without method or plan, but does an enormous amount of work nonetheless. He eats about a hundred pounds of food per year, gathers bushels of nuts and pinecones, and serves as the "Johnny Appleseed" of the forest by burying pinecones and acorns. The squirrel is the forest's burglar alarm, using his shrill voice to warn everyone who will listen that danger is near.

But perhaps no other animal knows so well that all work and no play makes Jack a dull squirrel. The squirrel applies his boundless energy to fun as zealously as to work. He delights in playing tag and peek-a-boo. As he bounces from spot to spot, he looks like a child playing hopscotch, with his tail waving like a flag on a dune buggy.

His acrobatic abilities are second only to the ape family, thanks to special sensory hairs on his feet, forelegs, and belly which allow him to run and leap along limbs and branches without watching his feet. Squirrels have been known to survive falls of one hundred feet, because they use their tails as parachutes. They are also excellent swimmers, though they are vulnerable to large fish.

Although he cannot speak in human tongues, the squirrel teaches men by his example to obey Colossians 3:23. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not unto men." Though we do not have the instinctive enthusiasm of the squirrel, we, too, must do all to the glory of God, whether we work or play.

Monday, January 15, 1996

"Behold Thy Mother" (a short story)

"Richard " her voice echoed down the hall, loud enough that he could hear her, but low enough that the children's sleep would not be disturbed. " Richard, I need to talk to you for a minute."

Richard Whitney smiled to himself, there in the hall, knowing their talk would probably last for several times her estimate. "I'll be there in one second, Susan," he called, not noticing that it took him several seconds more than one to pull his bathrobe over his partially unbuttoned dress shirt.

Then he strode into the living room and sat down on the couch beside her. "What's up?" he asked.

"Well, there are two things I need to talk with you about," she said. "The first is Kyle."

"What's wrong with Kyle?" he inquired. "Is he sick?"

"No, nothing like that. But he's been pretty sassy to me lately. I ask him to do something and he refuses."

"That's not good," Dick frowned. "If he acts this way when he's ten, it'll be hell when he hits thirteen."

"Exactly," his wife sighed. "Dick, what can we do?"

"Right now," Richard replied slowly, "The only thing I know to do is pray. Maybe God will show us."

Susan stood up and walked into the kitchen, returning with a mug of coffee for each of them.

"So what's number two?" her husband asked. "Cindy?"

"No, Cindy has been behaving herself quite well for an eight-year-old," Susan smiled. "But it's time we decide about my mother."

"You mean, decide whether we should invite her to live in our house or move her to a nursing home."


"Well, I don't have any problem with her coming here," Richard said. "So long as you'll take care of her."

"I don't know," his wife replied. "I don't want to be selfish, but I think she'd be better off in a nursing home. I'm far too busy to take proper care of her. I have the ladies' Bible study on Tuesdays, the Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday night, and I work at the school on Mondays and Fridays."

"I know, dear," Richard said, "But do you know how much it costs to stay in a nursing home? Thousands of dollars a month! She's already almost broke, and you know we could never afford that."

"Doesn't the government pay for most of it?" his wife asked. "Besides, there are other reasons. She would have to move into our bedroom it's the only one on the first story, you know and we'd have to move into the spare room upstairs. I doubt that our bed would even fit in that room!"

Richard grinned at her exaggeration, but she continued without noticing. "And it would be hard on the kids. She can't take much noise, from what I understand; the kids would go crazy trying to stay quiet in the house."

"You're probably right, Susan," Richard decided. "I'll call the nursing home in your mom's town tomorrow to see how much the government will pay."

Susan finished her coffee. "Good." She stood again and took the empty mugs into the kitchen.

Richard glanced at his watch. "She only took thirteen minutes this time," he mused. "Not bad."

"Richard " his wife's voice interrupted. " Richard, I just thought of a third thing." He smiled.

Both Richard and Susan Whitney were exhausted when they finally went to bed at ten. While Richard fell into a deep and noisy sleep, Susan dreamt for most of the night. She remembered the last dream for the rest of her life.

She was walking down the hall of a nursing home. The hall was curved and she lost all sense of direction, which is rather hard to keep in a dream anyway. The numbers on the doors grew higher and higher, but she never reached the end of the hall. She came to a nurses' station occasionally, and a few wheelchairs with wrinkled occupants were scattered here and there. But no one paid attention to her, and no one asked where she was going, which was a good thing because she didn't know herself.

As she drew near to room 1004, a frail, high voice called out into the hall, loud enough that she could hear it, but quiet enough that it did not disturb the aged bodies in the other rooms. "Cindy?"

More from instinct than from mercy she turned into the room, and found on the bed nearest the door a shriveled, white-haired woman. She had an IV attached to her right arm, and oxygen tubes running to her nose. "Cindy?" the woman asked again, when she saw Susan.

"No, I'm not Cindy," Susan said gently. "Are you expecting someone named Cindy?"

"She's my daughter," the invalid wheezed. "No, I don't expect her. She never comes."

"Never?" Susan was startled.

"Well, she came once to tell me that my son died," the woman answered. "That is all." She stared at Susan.

The silence was uncomfortable. "I've got a daughter named Cindy, too," Susan smiled, as the idea hit her. "Would you like me to tell you about her?"

The invalid nodded.

Susan told the woman all about Cindy, and Cindy's rabbit, and the fun those two had together. After what seemed a long time it's hard to measure time in dreams, you know she decided she'd talked enough. "Well, I'd better be going now," she said.

The woman blinked. "Already? Will you come back?"

"All right," Susan agreed.

"You won't forget me?"

"Of course not!"

"You can find my room again?"

"One thousand and four," Susan remembered.

"But what if they move me to another room?" the invalid fretted.

"Just give me your name, and I'll ask at the nurses' station which room you're in."

"Oh, thank you!" the woman smiled.

"Your name?" Susan asked.

"Susan Whitney," the invalid answered.

Susan awoke instantly in a cold sweat, and sat up. Her first feeling was one of relief: it was just a dream. Or was it? She looked at the clock; it was five.

"Richard!" she exclaimed, unable to contain herself. The sawmill on the neighboring pillow ground to a stop. "Richard! Wake up!"

Her husband sat bolt upright in bed, his hair skewed in seventy directions. "What's the matter?"

"Richard, forget what I said last night! Mother must come to live with us!"


"It'll work out trust me! I'll quit my job and we'll get a smaller bed so we can use the spare room."

"What?" her husband asked again, squinting at the clock. "Why did you change your mind?"

"Be quiet for a minute and I'll tell you!" she exclaimed.

Richard smiled to himself, knowing that this talk would definitely be several times longer than her estimate.