10 Questions To Detect Sports Idolatry

On this day in history, April 6th, the ancient Greek tradition of the Olympics was reborn in Athens at the Panathenaic Stadium.

When we were in Athens several years ago, Norma Jean and I visited the Stadium, the only one in the world built entirely of marble. It was originally built in the 4th century B.C. Rebuilt in 144 B.C. Then excavated in 1869, and hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.

When we visited, I wondered if the apostle Paul might have visited this Stadium. As he walked around Athens, seeing the many monuments erected in honor of their gods, it’s both possible and probable.

I wonder if was Paul a sports fan? He often used the imagery of the sports world in his letters comparing the Christian life to running a race. Like running, to stay in the spiritual race we must exercise self-discipline, endurance, and focus as we keep our eye on the ultimate goal.

However, is there a danger in sports? Can sports become an idol? Can sports become our god?

It’s interesting to note that the first recorded Olympics which dates back to 776 B.C. was held every four years during the religious festival honoring the Greek god Zeus, “considered the ruler, protector, and father of all gods and humans.”

It’s also noteworthy that in an effort to suppress paganism in the Roman Empire, that the Emperor, Theodosius I, who identified as a Christian, abolished the Olympics in 393 A.D.

So, has sports become our modern day god?

I am admittedly a basketball fan. Having grown up in Indiana, where it’s often said that “basketball is a religion,” I played the game from grade school through college. In High School I also ran track and cross country.

I enjoy the game and even still shoot hoops occasionally with my son and grandchildren. However, I’m mostly a spectator today. March Madness is my favorite three-weeks of the year. If you watched any of the games, especially the upsets, or last-second buzzer beaters, you could visually witness the crazed excitement of the fans, which is a shortened version of fanatic.

So again, have I become a fanatic, making sports my god?

Consider these 10 introspective questions.

1. Does my passion for my favorite sport or favorite team compare with my passion for the gospel?

2. Do I know more about my sports heroes than I do about Bible heroes?

3. Can I memorize and recite averages, statistics and sports trivia, yet claim I can’t memorize scripture?

4. Are my conversations more about sports than about Jesus and spiritual matters?

5. Do I spend more time watching or playing sports, than I do reading the Bible, praying, and participating in religious activities?

6. When I’m at worship services, is my mind on the upcoming game or focused on worshiping God?

7. Am I more in awe of sports stars than I am  of faithful, godly men and women whose lives exemplify the character of Christ?

8. Is my mental and emotional energy consumed by sports to the neglect of more meaningful matters in my life?

9. Has sports become more important than my relationship with my spouse? My children? And my brothers and sisters in Christ?

10. Am I spending more money on participating and watching sports than I am giving to the Lord, helping those in need, and contributing to worthy charities?

While ancient idols were constructed of wood, stone or metal, our modern day gods may be more sophisticated. Idolatry is anything that takes God’s place, that comes between me and my relationship with Him.

Under the Law of Moses, Israel was commanded, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3-6).

Among the works of the flesh, the apostle Paul condemned idolatry (Gal.5:19-21) as a sin that will keep us from inheriting the Kingdom of God.

The beloved John implored, “Little children, keep yourself from idols” (1Jn. 5:21).

Basketball and other sports are fun hobbies and enjoyable pastimes, but make a terrible god.

The Bible tells us that Israel “served idols” and it became “a snare to them” (Ps.106:36). It’s possible to allow our love for sports to become a snare to our spirituality and replace our love for God.

So, I ask again, “Has sports become my god?”

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Discipleship

2 responses to “10 Questions To Detect Sports Idolatry

  1. Dennis Abernathy

    Timely, and I know myself needed it. Thanks. Dennis Abernathy


  2. Pingback: Weekly Recap: April 3-7 | ThePreachersWord

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