possible to engage in sports without becoming overly competitive? Certain
sports foster aggressive activity but others like ping pong seem to be less
aggressive. What about playing board games such as Monopoly or
Trivial Pursuit or various card games?
n regard to whether
sports and games interfere with living a holy
life, the issue isnt aggression, its competition. Because
all games are a form of competition to
one degree or another, listen, then, to what Saint Paul tells us:
Do nothing out
of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more
important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but
everyone for those of others.
So, if you take Saint Paul seriously,
imagine playing ping-pong without hitting the ball back, so that the other person
can accumulate all the points he wants. Imagine playing bridge without doing
anything to obstruct the other players in claiming all the points they want. Imagine
two teams of men joyfully walking from one end of a field to the other, helping
each other to accumulate all the touchdowns they want. In the eyes of the
world, it would be boring, wouldnt it? Well, in the eyes of the world,
Christianity is boring. Thats why the Roman Empire made a
sport out of killing Christians: it made Christianity
into something exciting.
Consequently, theological writers
have been saying for ages that each person must fight the
spiritual battle in his own heart, without regard
for what others do. If youre always comparing yourself to
otherswhether at work or in recreationyou will either be feeling
inferior and jealous or superior and proud. Only when you stop concerning
yourself with what others are doing can you be truly humble.
It cannot be
said more simply or more clearly:
Competition is fundamentally opposed to
Right about Humility
So lets not waste time
arguing about whether there is anything wrong with this game
or that gameas if there were some secret pleasure in it that we have
to pretend we dont want while in the depths of our hearts we secretly
desire it; this sort of self-deception only leads
to a puritanical attitude, which is a heresy.
The point here is that there
is something very, very right about
humility as a core aspect of Christianity. Christ
calls us to die to ourselvesto set aside our
prideso that we can focus on the real problem:
ourselves. Anything that uses competition to develop our talents misses the
point; our talents should be developed to serve God. Instead of always thinking
about how to rack up points for ourselves at the expense of others,
we should open our hearts to genuine concern for others.
Now, physical activities
such as hiking, running, skiing, and bicycle riding, when done noncompetitively,
can promote health and self-discipline, so they can be good in that senseas
long as they do not fall into the trap of vainglory.
How Will You
Just remember one thing though.
Someday you will have to stand before Christ, and, as he scrutinizes your
record in the Book of Life, he will say, Whats this? I
was cold and hungry with no place to lay my head, and you were in Palm Springs,
at a fancy resort, in opulence and luxury, playing golf and eating gourmet
food, for no other purpose than personal pleasure? How do you explain
Well, how will you explain
So, if you do spend money on
games and entertainment (resorts, sports equipment, user fees, transportation
costs), then be sure to donate at the very least an equal amount of money
to charity. That donation wont make up for any neglect of your own
spiritual development, but it will pay some of
the cost of your failure to spend the time
praying for the poor souls who have no one to
pray for them.