Not long ago I read an article that was written a few years ago by Jim Elliff entitled When Ball Becomes Baal. I have to agree with the premise of Mr. Elliff’s article, but I think he may have used the wrong god. In ancient times Baal was generally regarded as a fertility god his worship often consisted of sensual acts, including prostitution. On second thought, I guess Baal was an appropriate comparison because many seem to have prostituted themselves to the secular “sports culture” that pervades society.
However, I believe a more accurate comparison would be to liken today’s secularly centered culture to the worship of the Ammonite/Cannanite god Moloch. The worship of Moloch included child sacrifice in one of the most horrific rites on record. The 12th-century Rashi, commenting on the Book of Jeremiah (Jer 7:31) stated: “Tophet is Moloch, which was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.”
Why do I make such a comparison? Because I see children being sacrificed every day. Not to the fires of Moloch, but to the equally horrific fires of popularity and the vicarious dreams of their parents. As I listened to the morning news on the radio this morning I heard a youth league baseball coach telling of how his team was participating in a tournament in which the games lasted until after 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night. Yes, I said ten o’clock at night – on a Sunday night. And it’s not just the boys and baseball. Several other sports have the same kind of schedule, including the girls’ sports. Is it worth the sacrifice?
Based on statistics obtained from the NCAA (http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/research/estimated-probability-competing-college-athletics) the overall percentage of high school male athletes who make it to compete in the NCAA is 6.2%. That includes Divisions I, II, and III. Of those, only 2.1% make it to Division I. The female side of the equation fares a bit better. Out of the thirteen sports listed 8.1% of the female athletes compete on the college level. For those making it to Division I that number drops to 2.4%. A higher percentage of the female athletes do make it to the college level because the initial pool of recruits is much smaller. For example, female basketball and volleyball players have only a 4% chance of competing at the college level. By contrast, a female ice hockey player has a 25% chance of making it. Why? Not many schools, high school or college, have female ice hockey teams. On the male side of the equation, only 2.9% of high school wrestlers make it on the college level while male ice hockey and lacrosse players make it to the college level at a better than 12% clip.
How many go on from college to make the big salaries in the professional ranks? Not many. According to https://www.livestrong.com/article/365997-what-percentage-of-high-school-players-make-it-to-the-nba/ only three out of 10,000 male high school basketball players are drafted into the NBA (0.03%). Female numbers are similar. One out of 5,000 (0.02%) make it to the WNBA, which doesn’t pay the huge salaries like the NBA. Furthermore, over half the team rosters in the NBA are made up of players with four or fewer years of experience. Only 10.6% of NBA players enjoy a career of more than four years.
So my question is this: Is trying to get your child into professional sports worth your child’s soul? Your child may win at baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, football, or any number of other sports, but if his/her spiritual development is neglected in that effort and their eternal destiny becomes eternal separation from the God of heaven, was it worth it?
Some people tell me, “Well, I can worship by myself/under a tree/on the lake (you pick the location) just as well (or sometimes better) than I can in a church building.” There is no doubt that one can worship God anywhere and at any time, but is such worship actually fulfilling God’s commands? Is it actually fulfilling the purpose that God has ordained for worship? And what is such an attitude toward worship teaching the next generation (your children)?
The word “church,” as it is used in Scripture, is a translation of a Greek word referring to a “called out assembly.” Scripture tells us that we should not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb 10:25). How does one fulfill that command by participating in some other activity when his/her brothers and sisters are assembled for worship? Additionally, we are to use that assembly time to exhort one another and to “stir up love and good works” (Heb 10:24). How can one exhort or encourage an assembly in which one is not present?
Some form of the word “exhort” appears at least 32 times in the New Testament (NKJV). Some form of the word “encourage” occurs at least 11 times (NKJV). While those words do not mean exactly the same thing, they do carry very similar meanings. The primary opportunity for exhorting and encouraging one another is when we are assembled together.
Assembling together for worship is certainly not the only function of the body of Christ, but it is an extremely important function. While the responsibility for teaching our children spiritual values and inculcating them with the doctrine of Christ is primarily the responsibility of the home (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21) it is beyond contradiction that our assemblies can be of inestimable value in supporting and supplementing that process.
I mentioned earlier that one youth league coach reported spending all day and well into the night on a Sunday participating in a baseball tournament. The apostle John referred to the first day of the week as the Lord’s day (Rev 1:10). Through the Old Testament prophet Malachi, God asked a question that is still pertinent today: “Will a man rob God?” (Mal 3:8). If the Lord’s day is taken away from Him and dedicated to the pursuit of other things, whether it be sports or something else, is that not robbing God of what is rightfully His? Under the Law of Moses the Jews were supposed to hallow the Sabbath day. God’s command concerning that day was “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work;… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exo 20:8-11). They were not required to do nothing on that day, but it was to be dedicated to the Lord. They even chastised Jesus for doing a good deed on the Sabbath day (Lk 13:14). God has given us six days to pursue whatever means of earning a living, recreation, hobby, or any other moral and ethical thing we wish to pursue. Is it too much for God to ask that we dedicate just one day to Him? If it was not important, would God have decreed it?
There was a time when no one would have dared to schedule secular activities on the Lord’s day. But it seems that consideration of the things of God now occupy a very small place in the collective thinking of society. This is not only to our detriment. It very well may be to the eternal damnation of our children.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not against sports. I participated as a youth and still enjoy participating and watching when opportunity presents itself. My concern is in the fact that such activities seem to have supplanted all concern for the spiritual development of our children. God will hold both us and our children accountable.