Does God Care About Football?

Author and Auburn fan Chad Gibbs wonders if God is OK with our love of football.

I don’t want to write this. Not today. Not when the Auburn Tigers, my Auburn Tigers, are only hours away from playing the most important football game in the history of space and time. I would have rather have written this in May, when the stresses of being a rabid college football fan are more manageable. No, today I have worrying to do, and I’d rather not have to sit down and question whether stressing over spectator sports is something a Christian should be doing.

It’s been an interesting fall to live in Auburn, and by interesting of course I mean totally awesome. You see, my wife and I are Auburn graduates, and if you haven’t heard, our football team is pretty good. So good, in fact, that tonight they are playing the Oregon Ducks for the BCS National Championship. What’s made the fall more interesting, and now by interesting I mean slightly awkward, is that in August my first book came out, entitled God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC. In the book, I traveled to the 12 schools of the Southeastern Conference, searching for a healthier perspective on sports.

I spent the fall speaking to churches, campus ministries, civic groups and quarterback clubs about correctly prioritizing your love of God over your love for football. And coming off last season, and the lessons I learned from writing my book, I figured I actually would have a healthier perspective on sports.

But like I said, our football team is ridiculously good this year, and I may have gotten a little caught up in the excitement.

So here’s the question,: Is it OK for Christians to care about sports? Can you even answer a question like that? I searched BibleGateway.com and Scripture appears to remain silent on the subject of football, although Leviticus has some harsh words about pigskin. But I guess just because the Bible doesn’t mention something doesn’t mean we’re clear to partake in it (e.g. pornography, dog-fighting, Bieber Fever).

This is the problem I ran into repeatedly while writing my book. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer to questions like this. It may just be one of those things you have to figure out through prayer and personal conviction, but let me ask it another way.

Do you think one day we will be held accountable for every dime we spent on sports, and every minute we spent watching sports? If you are not aware, there are some terrible things going on in the world—oppression, starvation, slavery—the sorts of things we as Christians are supposed to be standing up against. How many times have you heard that nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day? That’s $730 a year ($732 on Leap Year). Or to put it into perspective, about $500 less than I spent on season tickets this season.

Will I get a pass on this at Judgment Day? Will Jesus say, “You spent more money on football tickets than 3 billion of my children lived on in one year, but I understand, those games sure were exciting, well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Of course you can get as legalistic with this as you want. I spent just as much on the cable and Internet bill as I did on football tickets. Is it OK for a Christian to have cable when children are starving in Africa? Is it OK to belong to a gym when that money could serve a higher purpose? “But my body is a temple,” you protest. Maybe, but jogging and pushups are free, and your body isn’t that great.

Perhaps it’s a question of comfort. If you have disposable income to spend on sporting events, maybe your life has become too comfortable. I think that might be the thinking behind books like Francis Chan’s Crazy Love and David Platt’s Radical, but I’ve avoided reading them both because that is not a message I particularly want to hear. I mean, when Jesus told that guy to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, that was a one-time suggestion to a single individual, right? Is the ability to spend what amounts to a year’s wages for half the world on our hobbies something we should be thankful for, or something we shouldn’t be doing?

Like I said, I didn’t really want to write this article. Not today. But the questions are out there, and worth thinking about. And I’d certainly appreciate your thoughts on the subject. As for me, I’m going to try and forget about all this stuff so I can enjoy the game in peace. At least until tomorrow.

War Eagle!

Chad Gibbs is a rabid Auburn fan and author of God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC (Zondervan, 2010). He and his wife live in Auburn, Alabama with their dogs Harper and Bob Vance. He also writes regularly at ChadGibbs.com.

55 Comments

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Anonymous commented…

Australian Rules football is what is played in heaven!...... but seriously conviction is the key when it comes to devoting too much time and or money at the expense of Christ.

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Binky commented…

you are bringing in your own assumptions to my comment. allow me to clarify for you...
"what makes you happy does not always make God happy" This means that we can be involved in things that bring us joy, but disappoints God. For example, someone could really enjoy hurting people, or enjoy lying, or getting so drunk they cant remember how to speak. These things do not bring God joy. so for someone to make a very broad statement that God is joyful when we are, is a problem for me.
"Jesus did not die for us to watch football" This is a true statement. over and over in scripture we see the reason jesus died is so that we may be in unity with God. If you believe that Jesus died so that you can do whatever YOU want, you are a fool and have totally missed the message of Jesus' life from all four perspectives in the bible. In fact, if you want a religion that promotes doing whatever makes YOU feel good, might i suggest Satanism.
"...He died so that we could live your lives as testimonies of a great God" if you think living your faith is boring, you don't know the Jesus i do, and i am sorry for you. If you think that serving the Lord is a part time identity, or a t-shirt that others can just read, i feel you may be mistaken.

So again, let me be clear: yes, you can enjoy a football game and live out your faith at the same time. But just enjoying a football game does not make God happy.

Adam C. Harper

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Adam C. Harper commented…

A healthy enjoyment with correct priorities is fine. Does God care about it? It all depends on how you approach it, if it is your god...He cares and despises it. If it is a healthy enjoyment? He cares because God doesn't want us to walk through life without enjoyment.

http://acharpman.blogspot.com/

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Eric Toomer commented…

I think God cares about Crimson Tide football. I think the appropriate title of this article should be "Does God still love an Auburn fan?" Kidding. Great article dude!

Carl Chomko

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Carl Chomko commented…

The way you finished off this article reminds me of how I respond most often to conviction. Notice, I'm not calling you out of this, as you seem fully aware, I'm simply saying that I am guilty of this as well.

I haven't read Crazy Love or Radical yet either, though I hope to. I think I put them off for the same reason that you wrote about, though they're delayed right now because my semester is ending in Seminary and I'm drowning in reading that I put off.

I have read Forgotten God lately though and that contained some of the similar calls that I've heard Crazy Love gives. I've also been spending increasing time in the Gospel and trying to dedicate more of my time to God.

I'm not a big enough sports fan to really resonate enough to give much of an informed answer, but perhaps that gives me a more sober perspective as I love the Bears and Bulls, but I would not face depression with never being able to watch or hear about either again.

I've recently tried to look at how I spend my time and ask, is this productive? But even more than that as too much productivity may lead to burnout or a lack of rest, is this the best way I can honor God with my time and am I being a good steward of the life that I've been blessed with and the grace I've received.

Forgotten God pushed me towards this in reminding me that the Spirit of God dwells within me and I really should be interacting with Him regularly. I've been trying hard to look to Him in all situations and either ask for help with something I'm lacking, such as understanding or fruit of the Spirit.

I don't know if that really speaks into this or not, I feel like it does...but I'm also somewhat brain dead from all of the reading I've done today. I hope this was somewhat helpful and not just mind vomit to read through and walk away from with a sense of regret at the lack of discovery of anything precious inside of it (I never speak in images like that...I clearly need to sleep soon).

God bless you in your journey and thank you for your transparency in writing this. This kind of open dialogue is what we need to do more often as brothers and sisters and Relevant tends to provide a good forum for that.

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