Sports are one the most enjoyed and exclusive past times in the whole world. Virtually every country has a national sport, and every four years each of those countries vies for a spot in one of a dozen major international competitions, from the World Cup to the Winter Olympics. Most of us, though, will never grace such a competition. There is an exclusivity about sports at the professional level. The pursuit of a sport at its highest level requires one to devote his or her entire life to perfect physical and mental acumen. And inherent talent and genetics. And an enormous amount of money and time that many citizens of the world simply don’t have.
The fact is no matter how much we love a sport or how many resources we have available to us, the majority of us will not play at the highest level of competition. My participation ended at the beginning of my college years but in the last decade we have found an answer to this frustration: Fantasy Sports.
The onslaught of fantasy leagues has been building for years. You have likely heard more than you could ever want in last few months. Companies like Fan Duel, Draft Kings, and even ESPN and Yahoo boast millions of users who every week pour billions of dollars and hours of time into researching statistics on players, match-ups, and even the weather in the hopes of gaining an edge for their teams. Nearly every sport has a fantasy equivalent today.
No longer is fantasy sports a minor recreational pastime; it’s now BIG business, complete with PR problems, law enforcement investigations, and a recently intensifying debate over the nature of betting on fantasy sports and its moral and ethical foundations. Is it gambling? Is it a game of skill or luck? Is it harmless or a dangerous addiction? Is it fair? Tune in to any sports station and you will hear the debate rage between statisticians, businessmen, academics, reporters and common folk all with an opinion and biases.
Debating over the validity of gambling on fantasy sports looks no different than a debate on any other subject of our time. Everyone has dissenting opinions, and everyone believes they are right. In our modern technological world information is at a surplus and people are quick to quote an article or statistic as truth – without much thought – if it is congruent with their already-held belief. Their truth is manufactured out of our own bias just as it is so often in the fields of science, philosophy, mathematics, religion etc. All to varying degrees of course.
If you are like me, most of these debates, no matter the subject, leave me wanting for real answers. It creates a chaos in my mind and heart. Instead of just finding an expert to justify what we already want to believe, why can’t we find what is actually true? Deep within us is a desire for truth, consistent truth that cannot be overturned. As Christians we know that it is out there but it requires the same commitment of time, attention and analysis that I confess I am quicker to give to my FLEX option than my faith.
Decades ago, Dorothy Sayers wrote an article titled “Creed or Chaos” in which she elaborated with depth and conviction on the saddening fact that the people of her culture and country, though claiming a Christian faith, knew next to nothing about the actual doctrine of Christianity. This type of intellectual and spiritual shallowness, she exclaimed, is dangerous to the point of verging on heresy. People live in a Christian fantasy of their own making.
Sayers then laid out in great detail how believing in the doctrine of Christianity must have visible consequences for how we go about every aspect of our life. Christianity requires that we ask questions, think, debate and chew on the Word until it is digested, finding its way into our hearts and our minds. Sayers was not romantic about this process. Christian doctrine is not easy to consume or live out. It requires discipline, commitment obedience and constant introspection on behalf of the believer like an athlete to his sport; and how much more eternal are the consequences of our faith than a game! The end result of this intense practice and study of doctrine rewards us with a truth that is eternal and solid.
Towards the end of Genesis the scripture focuses on the story of Joseph. A devout follower of God, betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, he found himself, through a set of amazing circumstances orchestrated by God, within the inner circle of the Pharaoh of Egypt. He did not belong there, but because of his prophetic gift, Pharaoh came to rely greatly on him for predictions – predictions that held the power to damn or prosper the entire empire. Joseph’s prophecies were from God and came in the form of vivid dreams.
I do not know you but I know me and I do not read much into my dreams, even the ones that seem to make sense. Joseph did. He was in-tune with God, and God was so merciful that Joseph trusted what was spoken into his heart and mind. He knew God’s doctrine. He believed God’s promises and love for him so much that his whole life, even his dreams, reflected the reality of those truths.
I have to imagine that in the inner court of the Pharaoh there must have been great debate among the other seers and “prophets” as to the meaning and validity of the dreams and predictions of Pharaoh and Joseph. Yet Pharaoh relied on Joseph, an outsider and a slave, because he was right, and he was right because he spoke and lived what God was telling him. Genesis 41 is one of the clearest depictions of this whole-life commitment.
Joseph communicated the truth of one of Pharaoh’s dreams, telling him that there would be seven years of agricultural abundance followed by seven years of famine. Joseph was appointed by Pharaoh to be in charge of the collection and storage of grain in anticipation of the coming famine. No one but Joseph knew for certain the truth of the prophecy. But sure enough, at the end of the seven years of abundance a great famine swept across all the world, and it was Joseph’s grain that saved not only the kingdom of Egypt but all those around it as well, including his treacherous brothers.
Joseph’s wisdom did not come in one instance. It was a process that began as a boy, and his belief was refined through trial and tribulation. Through it all he remained devoted to understanding the promises and nature of God, believing in Him. For this he was rewarded through his suffering with great knowledge and wisdom and the opportunity to serve and save those around Him through the world, using the resources of an unbelieving people. We all thirst for a truth we can believe in like the one Joseph found in God. The Bible says that truth is God revealed in his Word. Scripture also says that this truth is inclusive, for the Jew and the Gentile. So will we be as thoughtful, involved, and devoted to our study of the doctrine of Christianity as we are to the construction of our lineup?
Stanton Coman interns in the not-for-profit world and is a member of the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program in McLean, VA.
Images: FreeImages.com/Paige Foster, Jason Antony