July 7

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father..

The Apostle Paul seems to have been a sports fan. That is very helpful. I can use the justification.  He compared the Christian life to an athlete who dumps everything that hinders in his goal of winning the prize:

I Corinthians 9: 24

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

It’s somewhat encouraging to know that the great Apostle just might be interested in who wins the big soccer (football) game on Sunday. One wonders what he would say about the salaries that athletes are able to garner and the fact that a basketball player can actually stage his own one hour television special simply to let he world know where he will be playing next year. And then there is perhaps one of the greatest sports quotes of all time made this week by some former Toronto Raptor when he said that Cleveland wasn’t big enough for him. Not big enough for the ego perhaps.

Humility is a rare bird in all avenues of life and is threatened in the heart and mind of every person on the planet. But in athletics it is simply off the scale. Children earning tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. Fans swooning over their performances. People spending obscene amounts of money for the privilege of watching them play their sport. Thousands of people wearing clothing with their names written on the back. An ordinary person would be seduced into believing that he is as great as people say he is. But for a person who is not far beyond childhood, who actually has some talent, to have these things done to and for you is absolutely crushing to any humility that was latent in the basement of the soul somewhere.

A culture that will complain about bail out money for banks, the salaries of top executives, tax breaks for corporations and then defend the salaries of athletes is very twisted. Humility is not a value of our culture. People value it when they see it in others but one does not get the impression that it is promoted very much as something to be chased after. Not many teaching sessions dedicated to considering others more important than yourself. But there are those dedicated to developing a high view of yourself.

There is little that is as anti-Christian as this. Satan’s sin was his desire to be in charge. The first temptation in the garden was for Adam and Eve to be as God. The devil promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He would only bow down and worship him.

There is, of course, a vicarious success thing going on in our adulation of our sports heroes. They have become what we wish we had become and we want them to get whatever they can – because we can at least pretend that we were that good and that rich and popular. The pre-requisite for it all is an absence of humility that can handle being able to look down on the rest of the world and pity them for their lack of skill, money, fame and power.

Such a world does not understand “Blessed are the meek” hardly at all. And the text of Scripture at the top of this posting is saying that we should see others as more important than ourselves. Who is your favourite sports star? How would you treat him/her if he called you and asked to come to your house for lunch? Or, to make it perhaps more relevant to the Christian community – what if Billy Graham called and asked to come to see you, or D.A. Carson, or CJ Mahaney, or John Piper? Treat others like that. Treat the poor little thing at the coffee shop today as if she were the author of great books, the preacher of great sermons, the solver of great mind twisting conundrums. Think about this today when a pan handler hits you up for a couple of bucks. See others as better then yourself.

To get the point across the Apostle Paul gives Jesus as the example of He who became nothing to win sinners to Himself. He did not consider equality with God something to be held on to. The salaries being asked for by athletes can be gotten because they, in their minds, deserve it. What did Jesus deserve? But He surrendered it, became obedient to death, the death of the cross. Verse 5 says that we should have the same attitude as that. It would help people see Cleveland as a little bigger.

Today, let’s behave like Christians in this. It will make the world a tiny bit more civilized. It will please the Saviour who gave up everything for us. It just might lead someone to ask you about the hope that is in you.