In the heyday of Tim Tebow doing interviews after football games, there was an ever-present “I just want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” that we all came to expect. It was exciting to hear someone who seemed to hold to the faith proclaim Christ publicly. Later in his career, I recall a couple of times that he did not say that in the TV interview.
Christians everywhere were aghast! Had he compromised? Apostatized? Does he just not find Jesus important enough to mention anymore?
And what does this have to do with Herod?
Patience, we will get there.
What About Us?
First I want to see if we are judging righteously. Sure, it’s nice when sports heroes who happen to be Christian* proclaim the name of Christ publicly. I enjoy my savior’s name as much as the next Christian. But let me ask you this, how often do you simply thank Jesus publicly at work? Do you begin or end every conference call with a declaration of your love for Jesus?
I had to admit when I asked myself this question—I do not.
So why do we expect college or pro athletes to do it … all the time? It seems we may be guilty of applying a standard to others that we do not apply to ourselves. This is the spirit of hypocrisy, and it is here that we encounter a rare online reference to Matthew 7:1 which is correctly used.
Judge not, that you be not judged, my friends.
So Where Do We Go From Here?
But once you realize that you do not also do the thing you are judging others for, what is the next step? I’ll confess, my gut reaction was to say, “Well, I don’t praise God all the time at work…therefore, I ought not to judge others.”
But this isn’t the type of thinking Jesus follows up his admonition concerning righteous judging with. Jesus says that when we are judging others while committing the same error, the solution isn’t to lower the standard but to elevate our behavior to meet the standard.
Matthew 7:5 (ESV) You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
My intention is not to make myself a hero of my own story here, but I repented of my worldly thinking when the Holy Spirit, through the scripture, convicted me in this area. I began finding times I could insert even little phrases like “Praise the Lord,” or “Praise God” or “Praise Jesus,” while at work. I try to respond to blasphemy I overhear with “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” (ht brother Mark Scheidegger) or when the blasphemy is the result of a complaint I say, “It wasn’t His fault.” It’s a form of doxological evangelism whereby a heart filled with constant praise overflows to the mouth resulting in unbelievers hearing at least some words of God.
It may or may not lead to gospel conversations, but it clears my conscience when I speak against blasphemy and when I am willing to publicly praise the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Step Further
One thing I have noticed is that a lot of NFL players will point to the sky or perform the sign of the cross after a touchdown or field goal made. You’d think kickers are all Christians…or at least Roman Catholic. I often thought it was very odd, and maybe a bit showy for them to do this. God gave you the talent: use it and move on was my wrong opinion. God “didn’t really care” if the guy made a field goal or missed it, I figured.
Then one day while I was working and getting nowhere, my wife asked me if I had prayed. My response was fleshly: “No, I hadn’t prayed.” I was doing difficult work and I couldn’t afford to be distracted, EVEN FOR 15 SECONDS OR SO.
Ugh. Thank God His mercies are new EVERY DAY (Lamentations 3:22–23).
Again, I repented of my wrong thinking. My God loves me and cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), and I have EVERY reason to ask for His help at work and believe that He wants me to do so. I have begun praying more regularly about my work and as a result, I can give God the glory when things go well. And when there are struggles, I know it is His providential will.
Finally, a Herod Reference
In Acts 12:20–23, there is a short anecdote of a leader named Herod whom God punished “because he did not give God the glory.” When I go about my usual earthly business prayerlessly, there is less tendency to give glory to God when things go well. When I pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) and bring every little request to my God who is sovereign over each detail, I am more likely to see His hand of providence in my successes and thank Him both privately and publicly.
We can joke with Matt Chandler memes that “We are not Herod,” but the application here is convicting and frightening (Psalm 119:120): those who do not give God the glory are not likely to be struck down by an angel in 2020, but we are following in Herod’s spirit and are outside God’s pleasure when we act like that. Let us bring even more things to Him in prayer than just things we think we cannot handle on our own.
And don’t judge field goal kickers who credit God with a made field goal. Instead, look up to that behavior. They may be Christians who are trying to trust God even in their work; and if they are not Christians, we should be a bit convicted maybe that a non-believer is giving their false god more credit than we often give the One true God!
May God cause us all to bring all our requests and supplications to Him with thanksgiving and enjoy the peace that comes along with that (Philippians 4:6–7).
*There is no such thing as a Christian sports hero.