The following link, I trust, will direct you to a Youtube video entitled “David Platt- Idolatry and Sports.”
If not, simply type in “David Platt- Idolatry and Sports” in a Youtube search bar and you’ll probably see a video where the popular evangelist criticizes the Christian’s “idolatrous” preoccupation with sports.
The reason I’m sharing this link with you all today is that I’d like to offer a criticism on it and share some insight concerning its teaching. On seeing this all too common scenario of legalistic preaching in the church culture, here are my personal thoughts.
I know that America’s (or at least the media’s) obsession with the controversey surrounding Tom Brady being suspended over knowing about deflated balls seems to give ample evidence of our nation’s fanatical bent towards sports. We don’t simply cheer and yell for our favorite teams. We get sucked in to their private lives as well, following even the events happening outside the locker room. Murder, suspension, domestic abuse, cheating, special charities. Whatever. Football fans, for example, love their favorite players so zealously we can get the impression that they’ve found something meaningful in their lives, something to be proud of. With all the passion for games every Sunday, we may question if such people have their priorities in line. “Why do dads watch John Madden cooking a burger on a grill when they should be buying diapers for the kids? Why, instead of cleaning the house, does my wife listen to Tony Dungee’s glory days as a Colts coach? Why is Peyton Manning’s success the only success I hear about from my boss, who makes me push myself to the limit on the job every minute of every day, all in the name of company success?”
Indeed, it all seems a little ridiculous.
Yet I would argue that all the booing and cheering is simply a time of enjoyment. It is no different than when you’re changing your son’s diapers, giggling about all the crap they’re spewing, or when your wife listens to you talk about your glory days as a football player, or when you and your boss celebrate the passing grade on a health exam.
It only seems to be an issue about priority. Who, or what, gets your full attention?
According to David Platt, when a Christian(s) get(s) excited about sports to where it interferes with their enjoyment of Christ and of the heavenly future, they commit gross idolatry since Sundays do not receive nearly as much emotional support. For the Christian, our greatest joy ought to be about Jesus and what He accomplished for us. If not, if football makes us happier in the long run, then something is wrong. Why does God not fill us even more so, seeing as He is our eternal reward and football, though it is great and fun, passes with time like everything else?
David Platt’s conclusion is that Christians need to examine themselves and go through a serious, mournful time of repentance, asking for God to focus their attention more on Him than sports.
But here’s my two cents. WHY does a football game give more to people than a Sunday church service?
Because the football game gives comfort and the church does not.
And why does the church not give comfort? Because of people like David Platt.
Imagine for a moment that the following is your pastor’s sermon schedule for a month:
May 1- Idolatry and Sports
May 8- The Practical Sword against Adultery
May 15- How to Disciple your Heart
May 22- How to Evangelize the American Culture
May 29- Ten steps to Idleness
I would tend to think that a normal Sunday for David Platt would be warning, condemning, evaluating, examining, judging, hating, and mourning the failings of God’s people. Sure, he may speak about joy and forgiveness and mercy, but those ideas are just a little icing on the cake. The actual cake is rock. Rock meant to toughen you up and set your eyes on who is truly important.
The only problem is, the Christian has apparently forgotten, or never known, why Jesus is so important. They only know about what Jesus desires concerning the way they live their lives.
And that is the true tragedy, the reason Eli Manning seems to be the new King of Kings. It is not because Christians have forgotten that God is a jealous God. It’s because in singing those empty hymns, they don’t know why God is so special. The only God they have known on Sunday is a God who tells them how their life is to be lived, not a God who lived a perfect life for them so they wouldn’t have to go through the hellish ladder of constant self examination. If you spent Sunday after sunday condemning yourself for your sins and asking God to help you change, would you not want a break or feel worn out spiritually? Of course you would. But because Jesus is all about transformation, you’ll never truly rest a day in your life, unless you give something else your full attention. If you did push ups every day for eight hours, you would crash sooner or later. I would hope, anyway.
The thing is, the atmosphere of the church is always serious, though it might hint at love. It always pushes a person to improve themselves by the grace of God. The justification is God’s love for us. But is God’s love so significant that enjoying football could trump it?
Only if there was something empty about it…..
If the Christian’s passion is about the constant struggle to gain victory over sin and selfishness, then they can’t be content in anything since such a struggle is always subject to skepticism. Christians would seek comfort in something more simple and light-hearted. And that’s why the football stadium is more meaningful. Or seems to be.
If Christians are listening more to Terry Bradshaw than David Platt, then keep doing so. God would be more glorified in a moment of curious relaxation than a drill about idolatry. Is it not true that God is the God of the outside world as well as the Church? Is He not glorified in entertainment as well, seeing as football can demonstrate His creative power in giving people the power to tackle the hell out of people? I would think so.
Christ is, indeed, more meaningful than football. But does the Christian know why?