During my freshman year of college, our English professor overheard two students discussing the upcoming Iron Bowl. Each of the students expressed undying confidence in their team’s ability to win the big game.
Finally, as the debate reached a stalemate, one of the student’s said, “Well this much is clear – God will ultimately determine the outcome.”
That became the inspiration for the professor to give us a writing assignment. We were instructed to write on the topic: “Does God Pick the Winners in College Football?”
Granted, the professor had made his opinion on the matter quite clear. In his view, God did not care about the outcome of college football games or any other sporting event. The Almighty had many more important matters with which to be concerned.
The professor assured us that even if we disagreed with him, we would not be penalized. We were encouraged to express our opinions freely. He was more interested in our technique than in our worldview.
In those days, my faith was extremely personal. And while I tended to agree with the professor that there were aspects of our lives as humans far more important than sports, the idea that “God didn’t care” bothered me.
My belief in God then and now includes the notion that God cares deeply about every facet of our existence. There is nothing in our lives that escapes God’s attention.
Clearly not everything occupies the same level of importance. Golf scores, which are nearly sacred to some golfers, obviously do not rise to the same level of importance as the welfare of children.
At least we hope they don’t.
There are a couple of recent events that got me thinking about all this again.
The first is Tim Tebow. Everyone that follows football knows that Tebow is a deeply devoted Christian.
In October, he became the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback. Since Tebow took the job, the Broncos have lost only one game – whereas they lost four before he took over as starter.
Several articles about Tebow have asked the question, in one form or another, “Does God pick the winners?” Is God responding to Tim’s faithfulness by giving him and his team a winning edge?
The other event prompting my revisiting this question is a new book by John Crossan titled “The Greatest Prayer.” Obviously his reference is to the Lord’s Prayer.
Crossan pays particular attention to the part of the prayer that reads, “Your will be done – on earth as it is in heaven.”
It’s pretty obvious that what is happening on earth cannot in any way resemble what is going on in God’s presence.
Jesus obviously understood this as the core of our problem and taught us to pray for change. He seemed to believe that the distance between heaven and earth could be bridged.
And happily, figuring out God’s will is not hard. In the writings of the prophets, in the words of Jesus – in fact, on almost every page of the Bible – it is clear what God’s will for us looks like. We are to care for the weak, the poor, the ill and the powerless.
My personal view of God will not let me say that there are parts of our lives about which “God does not care.”
But I can also say with some confidence that God most certainly cares more about the needs of the needy than who wins the big game.
In fact, finding a way to build a world where the least of these in our midst are cared for is the big game.
James L. Evans is a retired Baptist preacher living in Alabama. Over 35 years, he served churches in Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. In support of his pastoral work, Evans published 5 books including “First and Second Corinthians: Immersion Bible Studies” (Abingdon Press (2011).