Idolatry of Sports

“The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.”  Psalm 16:4

With the Super Bowl approaching this coming weekend, I thought now would be a good time to post something I had written last year but never did anything with.  By the way, as I share very briefly within this article, if you have never read a fuller version of my personal testimony, here is a link to the page of our website where you can open the document to my testimony:

The above verse is what came to mind as I read about the events unfolding at Penn State University.  I read in one article about a man who sat crying in his office regarding the changes in the coaching staff at Penn State. I read of how sports are often a “sanctuary” for athletes (and fans) and a place of “distraction” from real life.  I watched in disgust as many of the students when the news first broke about Joe Paterno being fired, began to “riot” even tipping over vehicles, upset about that decision.  The rage and riot should have been over the crimes committed and moral failure of those involved to not stand up on behalf of those boys!  How backwards is it that the passion and support was for Joe Paterno, rather than the victims and their families of this injustice!?!!

It just shows the blinding power of allegiance to a man, exaltation of man and idolatrous worship of sports many in this country and around the world are engaged in.  For many the stadium has become the sanctuary where worship and sacrifice takes place to a false god who only offers a sense of momentary thrill, temporary relief and escape, but has no power to save.  Passion, time and money is squandered on something that does nothing to truly enrich lives, but is an escape from real life.  In the end, after it is all over, it leaves you empty, alone, unfulfilled and even depressed.  People literally walk around depressed when their team loses or the season is over.  Is something not seriously amiss in this?

Perhaps I am sensitive to this because I lived in idolatry for many years myself.  I lived for baseball.  I “ worshiped” (ascribed worth) to the sport and “god” of baseball.  It was my life, all I wanted to do, what I lived for, thought about, dreamed of and desired to do.  It was my passion and what all my energy, time and focus was spent on.  I was a slave and as time went on I became more “sorrowful” as the emptiness within me only grew larger and the lack of peace, that inner restlessness became more intense.  That’s what the above verse promises. “The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.”  (Psalm 16:4).

*You may also find helpful a current series we are doing on the book of Ecclesiastes that speaks to that emptiness, meaninglessness and lack of satisfaction: The series is presently on the right hand side of that page.

1 John 5:21 warns even us as believers in Jesus to:  “keep yourselves from idols.”

A lot of people only think of idols as other “gods” like you see actual figures or statues of.

But in essence, an idol is anything (even otherwise good things) that become more important to us than relationship with the one true Living God.  Idols are anything that we become devoted to above devotion to Christ.  Idols are anything that take us away from fellowship with God, serving Him and worshiping Him.  For many in this country sports has become the god they worship.

We need to keep ourselves from idols and turn away from all idols, following the Thessalonians’ example:  1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 “They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.”

*This is not to say participating in sports or watching sports is wrong or evil.  Like many things and as anything good can become, sports has become an obsession to many.  Athletes (and actors) are also often looked upon as “gods” and much time that should be spent being in the Word or prayer or serving the Lord and being with family is squandered on undo time being given to sports.


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