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"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."

Vince Lombardi

Paul and sport

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 2 Timothy 2: 4-6

In a series on the theology of sport, some people may be surprised to find no reference to Paul's references to sport. These verses have certainly been used to justify sport or to argue that Paul (or even God) approves of sport!

There are two major problems with this approach. Firstly it is to misunderstand the verses and their context. Secondly if the inclusion of Paul's references to sport, implies God's approval of sport, then the references to slavery must equally imply God's approval of slavery.

The fundamental question as we approach 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Galatians 2:2, Philippians 2:14-16, Philippians 3:13-14, and 2 Timothy 2:5, 4:6-8 etc is what is Paul (or God) trying to teach us about sport from these passages? My answer is nothing!

In all of these passages Paul is using a sporting analogy to teach spiritual truth. He is using as an illustration, something that his readers would have been familiar with - as thousands of preachers have done since. In none of them is his aim to teach us about sport.

Take 2 Timothy 2:4-6 as an example. Is Paul trying to teach us about soldiers, about farming and about sport? No, he is using these three analogies to show Timothy that it is hard to be a Christian. You need the focus of the soldier, the self-discipline of the athlete and the hard work of a farmer to be a successful Christian worker.

Again in Romans 11:23-24 I think it is to miss the point of the passage to ask what is Paul teaching us about growing olives! Or to try to develop a Biblical view of farming from Luke 8:1-15, Luke 12:13-19, Romans 11:24 and 2 Timothy 4:8.

Stuart Weir

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