When Idols Break

If you have been around church for any amount of time you will have most likely heard the first commandment. “You shall have not other gods.” Often times church-going people will say I have no other gods as I only worship the one true God, the Triune God. Most likely that statement is true depending on how you define the term “god.” Most professing Christians don’t worship another god with another name such as Baal, Vishnu, Atriums or one of the other thousands of false gods that have been worshiped over the years (although in 2019 that is less of a certainty than it once was). The reality is though that many idols or gods don’t hold traditional names as they once did nor do they have the characteristics of a traditional god-like we would think yet they take on many of the same characteristics and produce many of the same behaviors from their followers/worshipers. What I am talking about is the idolatry of sports in general and specifically youth sports in our culture. I have wrote on this subject matter in the past and will continue to speak about it because it will not be getting better anytime soon as our context has fewer and fewer biblical Christians who should be confessing their sin which includes idolatry and seeking to walk in the way of the Lord to the glory of His holy name.

Recently there has been some footage and stories done on an incident at a youth baseball game. In which a call was made by a 13-year-old umpire, which then broke out into a fight between parents.

When humans who are sinful believe something that will benefit and provide something for them is taken away anger is typically the reaction and here we have not only anger but violence. I write this from a place of personal experience of being mad and even having an overreaction at a bad call or feel slighted by an official. I don’t seek to take a holier than thou positioning, but our actions reveal things about what we believe. The question that I want to wrestle with is why there is such a big reaction to a youth baseball game. I see it as a manifestation of humanities idolatry. Many people see sports as something that can provide for their children. Some think their kid will get popularity and fit in because of sports, while others believe that a college scholarship is right around the corner for their son or daughter, and even greater heights of becoming a professional athlete and making millions of dollars. When idols fall and the hopes of what that idol can provide are taken away people react in anger. See how people reacted in Acts 16:16-24 when the spirit was cast out of the fortune-telling slave girl. See also the narrative of the silversmith who made idols of Artemis in Acts 19. Both sections of scripture point to the fact that people were mad because it took away a source of income.

16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. [1]

For the Christian, we are to believe that all things that we need for this life are a gift from God. Yes, we work for some of those things yet even the job that we have is a gift from God as we look to God for all we have and all we need. This is where many people struggle including me at times. We turn God’s gifts into idols and rather than thinking that what we have is a gift from God we think that it is our hard work or what we have done that gives to us all our blessings this is a mistake. When it comes to our children we often times will think that it is sports, music, school, or one of the many other things that distract people from God will provide for them what they need in life. So many of God’s blessings can so easily be turned into idols including sports.

The first reaction that we will often times have in response to our own idolatry is that we just really like (insert idol here). One of the easiest ways to tell if something has become an idol is to watch your reaction when it is taken away. In the video above someone thought something was being taken away from them or someone that they loved and they reacted in a way that is clearly inappropriate. In the world of sports, I see it all the time and it usually comes in the form of anger in regards to playing time or making a specific team because the thought is that those things will provide something for them or their child. The way that many react is as if every coach in America is biased and just wants to stick it to about 4 kids in their program. There are circumstances that are biased and some have been slighted, but most likely it’s not you or your kid who falls into this category. So why are you so mad anyway? Why do I get so mad? We all have areas where idolatry can leak into our lives and anger is often an indicator of something that you have placed too high up the priority list. Often times it is easier to evaluate these idols in our lives when we remove ourselves from the situation. The proper response is to repent or turn from these idols and again return to Christ where our forgiveness is found. Yet we don’t like to do that because we like our idols and they bring us a worldly joy. What are your idols? What are the false gods that you seek to have provide what you want and need? I pray that we would all look critically at what we value in this life and acknowledge that it is only Christ who can provide us with what we need first and foremost the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 16:16–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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