Friday, December 16, 2011


I like sports quite a bit, especially baseball. However, I don’t typically see myself as one of those overzealous fans who talks sports, rumors, trades, and comments on every blog. Yet, I find myself writing about the sports world for the third time in a row. Ryan Braun, an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers and 2011 NL MVP has been tested positive, and confirmed for elevated synthetic steroids. In short, the random testing provided by the MLB has found Braun to have been using illegal substances which merit a 50 game suspension. Of course Braun and his lawyers are denying the findings because admissions and apologies only come when there are no other options, not as a sign of regret or remorse.

If you have the smallest understanding of baseball you understand the ‘steroid era’ which we thought we were emerging from in America’s Pastime. With tainted records, and Bonds possibly heading to jail, it seemed the MLB was cleaning up its act, until of late.

Barbara Walters did her special on the most interesting people of 2011, and on the list was New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Walters asked Jeter if it was all about how one plays the game, or if it was about winning. Jeter bluntly said it was all about winning.

Now I like winning, and I hate losing. I work hard to ‘win’ or be successful or accomplished. But winning is not everything. We live in a society that focuses so much on results that we cannot be satisfied until we have arrived at our goal. If winning or accomplishing is everything than we cause two very big problems in our lives.

The first problem we cause when winning becomes everything, is we become miserable people. If you are only happy once you have won, than the rest of your life is a drag. We only can enjoy the end and never the journey, and all of life is a journey except for the very end. Depression is climbing, along with stress and strained relationships because we do not how to enjoy who we are or who we are with unless we are “winning.” We don’t know how to be content unless our life matches what the popular media says success looks like.

The second problem this outlook has is that it throws all other morality out the window. If winning is everything, than winning becomes god, and we do whatever is necessary to serve our god. We bemoan the fact that students cheat, that teachers cheat, that politicians lie, and the rich are greedy, yet they act the same as our sports heroes who have adopted the religion of winning.

Winning is not everything. It is something, but it is not everything. We teach our children to do whatever it takes to win, and we wonder why we have the highest percentage of citizens in jail than any other civilized nation.

Jesus was very clear that life was not about winning. In fact Jesus says almost the exact opposite. In the gospels Jesus several times says if you want to be first you must be last, think about that as a competition. Jesus says, if you want to win, you must lose. The prize that we are competing for is not any earthly prize (1 Corinthians 9) it is much greater. To have this prize we don’t do whatever we can to get ahead of everyone else, we do whatever we can to put others in front of us. Winning here really is nothing (not that it’s bad to win as the Chicago Cubs should take note). Scripture is clear, God is love, and love is everything, and that means sometimes you come in last.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

big money, little value

Anyone who loves baseball as much as me, knows that when the season is over and December rolls around, things start to heat up. With Baseball’s winter meetings happening in Texas this week, there has been a lot of excitement over the league’s premier player Albert Pujols. Pujols is not only the best player in the game today, but arguably one of the greatest players ever. When Pujols’ contract was up in St. Louis and he hit free agency a bidding war open with Miami and St. Louis. But it was the Angles who swooped down and grabbed Pujols with an estimated 250 million salary for 10 years.

250 million dollars. That’s $25 million year; $480 thousand a week; $68,681 a day! Pujols current 10 year career in the big leagues has produced 6,312 at bats. If he produces similar number of at bats in the next 10 years, that mean Pujols will get paid $39,607 every time he steps up to the plate (even if he strikes out) which is more than most Americans make in a year. $250 million is more than 8 different countries GDP according to statistics provided by CIA website.

Some (mostly Cardinal fans) have called Pujols greedy, others have called him opportunistic, and others shrug their shoulders and say that’s baseball.

I don’t know Albert Pujols. Some seem to think he is a nice guy, there are reports about his strong faith, and some think he has an ego the size of his new contract. While the $250 million contract will define Baseball’s offseason, my hope is that it does not define Pujols life.

As great as you are at your job (and Pujols may be the best there ever was) and no matter how much you make, our life’s happiness and fulfillment must be found in other places. We fall into the lie that the more money means more happiness or more success; but that is a lie. There are many people plagued with sums of money and have no sense of contentment or joy. In fact, Jesus warns those with money several times in scripture,

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort” (Luke 6:24).

Grotesque wealth does not make life easier, it makes life more difficult because it creates distractions and barriers, that’s why Jesus says,

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

Money does not make a person’s life good or bad, and it does not make a person good or bad, but it does create dangers, not blessings. There is a reason scripture says,

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10)

If we make money we must be willing to give it away unlike the rich man (Luke 18:22,23), we must choose who we will serve because we cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). Even though $250 million is a lot of money, it cannot buy mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, and life. It is nothing is the light of eternal matters. We must chose whom we will serve, the never fulfilling lure of money, or fulfilling promise of Jesus Christ.