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What Does the Bible Have to Say About Sports?

Dec 05, 2014

Timothy 2:5 says: “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”

Believe it or not, the Bible does talk about sports. Otherwise, this article would be very short, wouldn’t it? In the New Testament especially, sports are often used as a way to illustrate a teaching and provide more insight into it. No, the Apostle Paul and other writers were not giving their fantasy picks for the Giants game, who will win the World Cup, or a detailed analysis on the history of the MLB. Instead, they used illustrations of sports that were found during their specific time period. And, just like today, they were quite popular! Here is some of what the Bible has to say about sports.

Playing by the rules

Even the Bible notes that Athletes cannot win unless they abide by the rules of their sport. 2 Timothy 2:5 says: “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” Sports have always had rules, otherwise it would be nothing more than chaos without a winner. Today, there are an unfortunate amount of cheaters, but they are the same people that often get ousted from their sport and shunned by the public. What the Bible says here holds true: an athlete is not crowned and given praise unless they win while competing by the rules of their specific sport.

Self-Control is important

In 1 Corinthians 9:25, the Apostle Paul writes: “and everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.” Like he does so often, Paul uses a sports illustration in order to illuminate a spiritual truth. Here, he speaks of the self-control that athletes need in order to obtain their prize. Every athlete needs a strict diet and exercise plan in order to succeed to the best of his abilities. He cannot slack off, because that would lead to him getting beat quite easily.

Exercise is good

It’s not very often that I would say this, but I don’t think you need the Bible to tell you this one! However, it does anyway! But, once again, it is to showcase a spiritual truth. 1 Timothy 4:8 claims that “bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things…” Now, don’t take this as the Bible saying not to exercise. It’s a contrast, but one that says that the second thing (godliness) is far better. In essence, Paul is saying that exercising with your body is great, but exercising your spirit is far greater.

Finishing strong

In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul tells Timothy that he has “fought the good fight” and has “finished the race.” This is what all Christians strive for, isn’t it? Yet, it’s one of the hardest things to do. Just as it’s difficult for a fighter to continue fighting after many rounds, it’s difficult for a Christian to stay faithful and committed until his very last breath—yet it’s so crucial! And, just like it’s hard for a person to finish a long race, it’s hard for the Christian to continue on in faith after so many years. Jesus never said being a Christian would be a walk in the park—but there are ample amounts of illustrations that talk about fighting, running, enduring, and engaging in warfare. In this passage, the Apostle Paul lists two different sports illustrations to illustrate this very important point: running and fighting. Isn’t that the way the Christian life seems at times? You’re constantly fighting battles, resisting temptations, and trying your hardest to serve the Lord. Hey, it’s okay to admit it’s hard—even Jesus did (if you don’t believe me, go back over the Garden of Gethsemane passage). Fortunately, Jesus runs the race with us and fights for us. We have the greatest help there is! And, Paul shows that it is possible to fight the good fight and finish the race well. Since we’re talking about sports, let’s take a strong word from Nike: Just do it!

Conclusion

The Bible may not talk about your favorite sport, whether it be Football, Baseball, or whatever it may be. It does, however, list some general sports that were played for many, many years—like running and fighting! Along with that, it often speaks of general principles that athletes of the time (and even our time) have to have, such as self-control and discipline. Most importantly, though, the Bible only talks about sports as a way to communicate the gospel to people. Especially for Paul, it serves as an illustrative tool.

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