It’s an offensive question to many Christians. But it’s a fair one, too. I asked the question of myself after reading a commentary on NPR.org about the growing trend of travel sports teams and the rigor of playing year-round sports. Many families participate in these types of leagues thinking they’re providing the best experience for their children — often at the expense of committed involvement in church activities. NPR leads the piece with this provocative introduction: “Think playing on sports’ travel team will help your kids get a college scholarship? Think again. NPR commentator John U. Bacon advises that they hit the books instead.” You can, and should, read the short commentary by clicking here.
But Mr. Bacon’s argument against the year-round and travel sports sparked a larger question for me. Yes, it’s easy to criticize something like a sport, or any activity, that forces Sunday games and travel, causing families to miss worship and Sunday School, but what else do I allow in my life that has the same effect?
God is clear when He commands in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Prefer a more positive spin? Try Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” That doesn’t mean we don’t get to enjoy a sport, that place at the “rivah,” that hobby or the countless other blessings God sends our way, but we enjoy them in the context of always respecting the Giver of those blessings.
How would you feel if your children or grandchildren, upon receiving a generous birthday or Christmas gift from you, began to spend more time with the gift than with you? Imagine that they allowed the gift to consume all their free time and you saw less and less of them. Would you be sorry you gave them the gift? Would you be inclined to give them many more?
God is the One who who gives us our athletic talents, our abilities to purchase second homes, and boats, and all those other toys, our interests and hobbies and passions. But we only enjoy them properly when we’re able to keep them in their proper place relative to our worship and relationship with God.
Matthew 6:24 warns us, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
The word “money” in that verse could be substituted with most anything we love. Anything I place in a position of such importance that it conflicts with worshiping and serving The Lord will have the same effect. I’ll not be as involved in the life of my church as I should be. I’ll not be getting as much spiritual nourishment, challenge and encouragement as I could be getting. I’ll also not be giving as much encouragement and spiritual aid to others as I should be giving. My love for and relationship with Christ will suffer and grow colder, more distant.
Then I’ll begin to wonder why I’m no longer “being fed.” I’ll wonder why I don’t have the desire for worship, Bible study and prayer that perhaps I once enjoyed.
God gives us the proper way to prioritize our lives in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If we listen to the wisdom of this verse, we’ll be able to make the necessary adjustments in our priorities to align our lives with God’s will. And then we’re likely to find that we’re able to enjoy those blessings He gives us as never before.