How Are You Affected?
DO YOU watch soccer or other sports on television? Will you be watching the World Cup games? To what lengths will you go to see them? How important to you is their outcome?
To many, whether their team wins matters above practically everything else. Rivalries between countries can be unbelievably intense, resulting in strong feelings of nationalism. “For many,” noted the New York Times, “soccer is a symbolic form of war.” To illustrate, the newspaper described the results of the game that gave Peru a berth in the 1970 World Cup finals, saying:
“As the game ended, most of Lima’s population poured into the streets. A raggedly dressed boy rushed out of a doorway near the San Francisco Church, threw his arms around a huge black dog, and screamed: ‘What happiness! What a beautiful day for Peru! We’ve won, Pepito! We’ve won!’
“Lima was in the grip of columns of wildly decorated automobiles and chanting and dancing crowds all night. Several thousand people marched to the home of President Velasco, who climbed out on the roof and waved a large flag. The President, his voice hoarse with emotion, joined in the chanting. In one impromptu speech, he told the crowd that bad management under previous administrations had resulted in unsuccessful soccer teams.”
The foregoing is typical of the intense feelings of many sports fans. Victory raises them to the heights of ecstasy, but defeat may bring them to the depths of despair. This can lead to terrible consequences, as we noted in the previous article. Are you ever affected by a spirit of competition? When a team you favor plays, do you become emotionally involved, perhaps even challenging: ‘We’ll show them now who’s best’?
The Bible gives wise guidance relative to this. If we apply it, we are sure to benefit. Note what the Scriptures say: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” (Gal. 5:26) What does this mean?
“Stirring Up Competition”
According to Greek-English lexicons, the Greek word here rendered “stirring up competition” means “to call forth,” “to challenge to a combat or contest with one.” Thus, The Bible, An American Translation has the rendering: “Let us not in our vanity challenge one another.” And a footnote of the 1950 edition of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures offers the alternative, “forcing one another to a showdown.”
Armies force opponents to a “showdown,” and so do warriors. Recall how, in ancient times, the bully Goliath called out: “Am I not the Philistine and you servants belonging to Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. . . . Give me a man, and let us fight together!” (1 Sam. 17:8-10) But Christians will want to avoid such a spirit when playing a game. Life does not depend on winning or losing such games. Soccer and other sports should be kept in proper perspective—as simply recreation, as a temporary diversion—not as something of vital importance.
How do you view sports? For example, do you make a practice of missing Christian meetings to play or attend games? On the other hand, would changing the times of regular Christian meetings so that they do not conflict with World Cup games indicate that a proper value is being placed on spiritual matters? Would doing this be setting a good example for those who are just beginning to make spiritual progress? Remember, Jesus urged: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom.”—Matt. 6:33.
What About Participation?
Playing games, such as soccer, can be beneficial. The Bible says: “Bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Since a lot of running is involved, soccer provides excellent exercise. And due to involvement in the game, the mind can be benefited by the diversion from other cares. But when played with the wrong motive—to win at all costs—problems result. And this is what often occurs in professional soccer. Also, the more important thing—“godly devotion”—can be crowded out. Note, therefore, the decision one professional player made:
“In 1965 my dreams became reality and I joyfully told my workmates at the machine shop: ‘Boys, I’ve just signed a contract with Bayern-München!’ (the professional soccer club). What I once had been doing after work hours, now became part of the day’s work itself: game preparations, training, training camp.
“For me, at 18, the big world of professional soccer had begun! Alongside Franz Beckenbauer and Georg Schwarzenbeck, with whom I had grown up, I played with Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier (all four being members of the 1974 World Cup championship team).
“Highlights of my professional career were the German Soccer Cup victory in 1966 before 66,000 fans in the Frankfurter Wald-Stadium, the European championship games that followed, and our trip to North and South America in 1967. In 1968/69 I was traded to the First FC-Nürnberg club, and in 1969/70 to the Stuttgarter Kickers.
“In Stuttgart I seriously began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I soon realized that Christians should not neglect their meetings. When I was at home this was no problem; but when I was on the road the entire weekend was generally spent traveling.
“My decision to give up professional ball was not easy. However, on August 3, 1973, I symbolized my dedication to Jehovah God by water baptism in Munich. Soccer had given me much pleasure in life, but it could never compare with the pleasure one has in knowing that he has a fine relationship with Jehovah.”
Man’s ability to play—his gracefulness, his agility—are gifts of a happy Creator. But, like so many other gifts, these can be misused and abused. There is a need for balance, for keeping matters in proper perspective. We should always keep in mind the excelling value of godly devotion, “as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Tim. 4:8.