Do Sports Matter to God?

With the National Football League season just underway, pennant races on in MLB, university and high school teams soon moving from practice to competition, and, yes, minor hockey starting already in some locales (!), it’s time to revisit a column I posted for “Context with Lorna Dueck” a while ago…

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“It’s only a game.”

And games don’t matter much, right? Not compared to wars, earthquakes, epidemics, political campaigns, scientific discoveries, and all the other subjects that appear first in the newspaper, on the evening TV broadcast, or in your Google News feed.

Then again: Name the president of China, one of the most powerful people in the world.

Hmm. Not coming immediately to mind?

How about the president of India, one of the most populous nations in the world?

Nothing?

How about naming instead not just one or two, but five players on your favourite sports team?

No problem, right?

Yes, the “hard news” gets the front window, but once we’ve taken a quick look at it, millions of us head on back to the sports department, and it’s a well-funded, prime-time department indeed.

When playing sports consumes so much Canadian attention and wealth, week after week and season after season, and when watching sports ranks among our society’s chief uses of leisure time and money, how can God not care about sports?

God loves the world, and a significant part of the world belongs to sports—from kids kicking around a raggedy ball in a favela to multimillionaires suiting up for another World Cup. When one of the few public events to be on almost every North American’s mind each February is the Super Bowl, how can God not care?

We should take for granted that God does care: about our time, about our money, about our attention, about our values, about our heroes, and about our dreams. And if God does care, I respectfully suggest that so should we.

I find in myself—as a longtime sports fan and sometime participant—a convenient mental trick I simply must stop using. It works like this:

I gladly pay big bucks for an authentic hockey sweater and then a lot more to attend the game, fuelled by wildly overpriced snacks along the way. It all obviously means a lot to me, and I am investing accordingly.

But if anyone ever seriously raises the question of my priorities, I try to laugh it off. “Aw, c’mon: It’s just for fun! It’s only a game!”

It’s only more money than I’ve spent in a month of tithing.

It’s only more time than I’ve spent attending church on Sunday or praying during the week.

It’s only a subject to which I pay more attention, and more passionate attention, than to almost any other, including Bible study, or theology, or spiritual growth.

Sports matter to God because sports evidently matter…a lot…to me, and to many, many others among my fellow Canadians.

So let’s be serious about sports, because all the evidence shows that we are, indeed, really serious about sports.

Let’s decide how much money and time and attention we really want to pay to sports versus our families, our friends, our neighbours and our neighbourhoods.

Let’s weigh up, soberly and accurately, our commitment to sports versus our commitment to local environmental challenges, homeless people, domestic violence, and quality schools.

Let’s put “sports” as a definite budget line in our personal and familial financial planning and calendar-making, and give it its proper place among the other good things in our lives.

Some of us, of course, don’t care at all about sports. But among the many of us who do, I suggest we start caring about sports in a responsible way.

As much as sports let us feel like kids again, we dare not keep indulging ourselves in them as if we were still kids.

We’re not kids.

And it obviously isn’t only a game.

3 Responses to “Do Sports Matter to God?”

  1. Tim W Callaway

    And if the Cubs make it to the World Series following the only season they’ve been above .600 all year long since before Jonah disembarked from the Ark, what am I to do then, Dr. Stackhouse? What then? (Thanks for spoiling an otherwise great ball season 😉

  2. june van farowe

    Hello Prof Stackhouse. My children graduated from NW, and called you a favorite prof. I’ll see if I can turn them on to your blog. Their Dad was an RCA pastor and they were born in ON Ca! That is Vonda V FAROWE , a teacher in Portland OR and Dean VF a Pastor in Cleveland OH

    • John

      Great to hear from the Van Farowes again! I now live in North Vancouver (summers) and Moncton, New Brunswick (during the academic year)–teaching at a Baptist university reminiscent of NWC, although without the distinctive Dutch flavour…. Give my warm regards, please, to Vonda and Dean.

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