Worshiping The False God Of Football

Picture this: People gathered together each week for one cause — clapping, singing, worshiping. They donate their hard-earned money, and their time, too, knowing they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Heaven, they believe, surely will be something like this.

Were you picturing a church? It’s actually a football stadium – and it happens each fall and winter in cities across America.

What happened that caused us to misplace our worship? We go to church and sing a few songs, check our watches waiting for the preacher to be done, and then rush home and cheer on our favorite team. And if our team loses, our world is shattered. Sadly, for so many Americans, football has become an idol.

The most-watched television event in U.S. history is … a football game. When Seattle defeated Denver to win the 2014 Super Bowl, 111.5 million Americans watched, placing it at No. 1. Second place on the list? A football game. Third place? A football game. In fact, Super Bowls account for the 21 most-watched events in American television history.

So, what about cable television? After all, Super Bowls are only on broadcast TV. Well, the most-watched event in cable TV history, too, is a football game. When Ohio State triumphed over Oregon this year in the college football national championship, 33.3 million Americans watched – a cable record. The semifinal games drew an average of 28 million.

And we didn’t even mention television contract rights. ESPN pays $1.9 billion each year to televise NFL games, FOX $1.1 billion and CBS $1.0 billion.

How did we get here?

There is nothing wrong with football, but we somehow have shifted from enjoyment of a good thing to the making of a false god. We now derive our joy and value from whether our team wins or loses – and not from the God of the Bible.

In a word, we now commit idolatry in the name of fandom. That’s what sin does; it takes something good and distorts it into something else, drawing our eyes off of God. It is the very thing Satan did in the garden with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-5).

Cotton Mather once said, “Faithfulness begets prosperity, and the daughter devours the mother.” What did he mean? Faithfulness can lead to prosperity, but prosperity will cause us to become complacent and to replace a desire for faithfulness with a desire for more prosperity — and we will sacrifice faithfulness in the name of prosperity.

Image source: Forbes

Image source: Forbes

Football is a child of American prosperity. Billions are paid in advertising, each team builds a new stadium in an attempt to out-do the last team that built a new stadium, and player contracts are astronomical for the sake of entertaining the fan and winning games. This is all possible because football is extremely profitable.

Where it gets personal, however, is when we realize football’s prosperity is due to us. Football makes billions because we have elevated it to a God-like status.

The first commandment God gave Moses read, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). When we elevate something to a level that it receives the affection that only God deserves, the praise that only God deserves, and the attention that only God deserves, we break the first commandment and sin. When we allow a game and our team’s performance to affect our mood while being indifferent toward the work of God in our lives and the lives of others, we break the first commandment. When we neglect our time with God and His people for the sake of something temporal, we break the first commandment. When we care more about the advancement of our team than the advancement of the Kingdom of God, we break the first commandment.

It would be bad enough if it ended there. But there is a more insidious thing that happens when we establish a lifestyle of obsession over something other than God: We teach others to do the same thing.

Truth is, you are always preaching – whether it is with your words or your actions. There are always eyes on you and ears listening to you … and sometimes those eyes and ears are very impressionable. Perhaps they are your own children.

Moses told the Israelites, “You shall teach [God’s law] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). When we obsess over football, we are doing just the opposite, teaching our children that idolatry is an acceptable way of life.

Please understand: Watching football does not equal idolatry. However, when football (or any sport for that matter) becomes something that defines you, affects you, consumes your thoughts, and controls your wallet – then it is bordering on idolatry.

What if we cared as much about the advancement of the Kingdom of God as we do about our team advancing the football down the field? What if we showed the same heartfelt elation over the worship of God as we do cheering for our team?

As the Super Bowl approaches, consider putting football in its rightful place: a good thing to be enjoyed, but not a god thing to be worshiped. We were made to worship. The question is: What will you worship?

About Bill Heid

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  • Gentle Joy January 31, 2015 07.35 pm

    Great article!!!!!! This is something that troubles and saddens me…. and I see it all too often. Thank you for addressing this. 🙂

    Reply 
  • Cornelis February 02, 2015 10.18 pm

    This article hits the nail on the head! sadly this is not only idolatry, but many more of Gods commandments are trodden on and pushed aside for sport such as; not keeping the Sabbath day holy, using the Gods name in vain during these events etc. One day we all have to appear before our holy and righteous judge and give an account for all our actions.

    Reply 
    • Benjamin February 06, 2017 11.31 am

      My parents told me that when they were little, companies wouldn’t work on Sunday’s. A lot of Europe still follows that rule, but here in the USA we no longer do it. The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest, but few people take rest on this day, it’s quite upsetting.

      Reply 
  • robert March 06, 2015 10.46 pm

    It is a shame people love football more than they do God!
    Further more They Worship football more than they do God! it is a shame.

    Reply 
  • Mike March 10, 2015 01.31 am

    I have been saying this to people I work with for years. That football (as well as other sports) are nothing more than idol worship. Especially given the vast amount of time spent watching games, pre and post game shows, statistical info…..and now March Madness. It’s madness all right! Wow does making a statement like that really get people worked up. Hey I’m not being judgmental and don’t get me wrong, I like to watch a game or two as well. It’s a matter of priorities.

    Reply 
  • Mike March 10, 2015 01.49 am

    Hey want spend a lot of time doing something worth while? Pray for persecuted Christian’s all over the world.

    Reply 
  • iftikhar June 18, 2015 01.56 am

    “Please understand: Watching football does not equal idolatry. However, when football (or any sport for that matter) becomes something that defines you, affects you, consumes your thoughts, and controls your wallet – then it is bordering on idolatry.” Your Words, the core point.
    Here we can replace Football with celebs, brands, imaginary heroes and much more things we worship instead of worshiping God.

    Reply 
  • Kellie February 07, 2016 04.20 pm

    I agree with you in general. The thing that strikes me is the hypocrisy of people who believe that a large church building or pastor who is prosperous are somehow signs of evil, but the average NFL player making several million dollars a year and the average ticket costing a week’s worth of groceries or more is totally fine. I don’t really care what people do with their money — waste it on sports, booze, whatever; or hand it to the local pastor and hope for the best — what irks me is that one judges the other sharply and basically does the same exact thing. Good article — food for thought.

    Reply 
  • Jim February 07, 2016 10.19 pm

    After hearing a great sermon this morning, I spent the afternoon roller skating with a bunch of kids from my community. That was far more enjoyable and rewarding to me than sitting around watching a bunch of millionaires play a game on TV!

    Reply 
  • Joe M November 06, 2016 10.20 pm

    This article is dead wrong. People do not worship football. It varies from person to person. After all. We are saved individually. But overall, it has more to do with foolishness, vanity, greed, among other things. It all revolves around the word SELF. It isn’t worship. Worship means a love that goes higher than any other thing in your life. You cannot even profess that love with words. You are just driven or drawn towards it. But the Scriptures have shown us that no one can truly worship GOD unless He chooses for them to. We cannot voluntarily follow GOD. It is IMPOSSIBLE. His Will is what drags us to Him. This happened with Jesus and the Disciples. There is no free will. We cannot choose to make GOD a failure if we want to. Thy Will Be Done. All those things you see on television are part of the greater process. Good and Evil were both created by GOD. Like everything else. Carnal Christianity is a pitfall. You cannot choose to walk away from where you are right now spiritually unless it is God’s will for you to do so. You can try. But you will FAIL otherwise. After Jesus passed, the disciples attempted to go back to their old life and failed. THY WILL BE DONE. You cannot resist or alter God’s Will in this world. Our carnal minds are incapable of understanding the Whys of this world. The Disciples barely understood all the things Jesus taught them until He returned to them after being crucified. Once it was God’s Will for them to understand, then it was so. Not by their choice.

    Nothing in this world is determined by us. We make choices. But we are CAUSED to make those choices by things that are beyond our control. Think about that for awhile.

    Reply 
    • Peter February 04, 2017 10.37 am

      Joe M, without free will then Christ’s death and resurrection are meaningless. God doesn’t want robots with him in Heaven. He wants those that chose to be with him. God made free will possible for this very reason. It’s the only way for it to work.

      Reply 
  • L.J. February 06, 2017 11.54 am

    I have long held that professional (and college) sports were a contrived distraction to take peoples’ minds off of what was going in in our country-the world so things can be done in the backrooms of deal-making, sleazy politicians. I ask you all to just think about it folks. And what about all the other things being done to take our minds (and attention) off of what is really going on our “there.”
    Oh yeah, before I forget–it’s about a lot of money!
    Over and out.

    Reply 

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