By Pastor Matt Troupe
In a previous post, I talked about how football (a good thing), has become a bad thing for many through our obsession with it. I really enjoy football, so I don't write this as some kind of sports-hater. But I write it as a man who has seen what happens when football comes before God and family. I have see the #footballwidow effect. And to be fair, these problems can just as easily be caused by NASCAR, soccer, fishing, etc.
How can you know if football is a false idol in your life? Here is the big idea, if you are giving to football what belongs to God, it is an idol. If you are giving to football what belongs to other priorities (like your family), it is an idol. In the next post I will offer some diagnostic questions and give some direction on what to do.
Here is the big idea, if you are giving to football what belongs to God, it is an idol.
If you will change your schedule, take days off of work, and sacrifice other committments to watch football, but you don't make time to gather with God's people for worship and fellowship, football is an idol. If you will take 4 hours to watch a football game, but you won't take 40 minutes for an important conversation with your wife, one that will cultivate your marriage and build her up, then football has become an idol.
If you will spend piles of money, and even go into debt in order to buy game tickets, large-screen TVs, or play fantasy football, but you don't give generously to the poor and the church in order to advance the kingdom, then football is an idol. Where your money is there your heart will also be.
If you will spend hours talking to your friends about football, reading blogs and listening to commentary, but you don't have time to have a real conversation with your children about the important things in their lives, then football is an idol.
If you are more emotionally, and mentally invested in football because your team is doing well than you are about the glory of God, football is an idol. If you're more upset when your team loses than you are about the very real evil and injustice in the world, then the idol of football has metastasized into your affections.
If you are serious about figuring this out, you won’t be able to do it on your own. You you need help. Don’t trust yourself. Idolatry is always creates blind spots. Don’t ask an alcoholic if he has a problem. He either doesn’t see it or will lie to cover it up. You need other people to help you discern this. What would your wife say if you asked her? AND what would she say if you told her you wouldn’t punish her for telling you the truth? What would your kids say?
I can tell you as a former idolater (and one that is locked in an ongoing battle against it) that there is hope. And the good news is that a life of love and service to Jesus is not only the right thing to do, it is much better.
If you find that any of this is true, the first thing you need to do is agree with God and confess that your heart is in the wrong place. You need to say the “s” word- SIN. Ask for forgiveness. Idolatry is a big deal. God’s mercy is great, even for fools who worship sports. Confess your struggles to someone else. A good friend, or your pastor.
Then start doing what you know is right. This is the other side of repentance. Come back to Christ. This means going to church as a priority, loving your family, etc.
I took an 18 year break from watching football when my kids were growing up. There wasn’t time to worship, work, and be the kind of husband and father I needed to be. The NFL doesn’t like to share. Now I have more time, but looking back I don’t regret it at all. Is possible to enjoy football in moderation? Yes, but that depends on what is enthroned in the heart.
I would love to hear more about your experience.