You may have wondered if participating in sports is compatible with following Jesus Christ. As Christians, we want to honor God in everything we do. So is playing sports something that pleases the Lord, or does it go against what He desires for our lives?
- Athletic gifts come from God, so sports can glorify Him when played well.
- Playing sports is a way to be a good steward of your physical body.
- Sports build character, bring people together, and facilitate community.
- Avoid the pitfalls of unhealthy competition, ego, and excess.
- Set boundaries so sports add joy to your life without displacing Christ-centered priorities.
Sports Are a Gift from God
To start, we must recognize that the ability to play sports is a gift from God. Every skill, talent, and capability we possess comes from Him. King Solomon wrote, “A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men” (Proverbs 18:16). Your athletic gifts are no different. God has granted them to you for a purpose.
When you use the physical abilities God gave you, you glorify His creative power. The Bible says God formed us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13). He designed your body to move, jump, run, and exert itself. And when you tap into the full potential of your God-given bodily talents, you display His handiwork.
Stewarding Your Body Well
Not only that, but playing sports helps you be a good steward of your physical body. This mortal frame is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). As such, you have a duty to take care of it as best you can. Regular exercise helps keep your body conditioned, toned, flexible, and responsive. Sports provide an enjoyable means of meeting this need for physical activity.
In a world full of sedentary entertainment and convenience, athletics prompt people to get off the couch and use their bodies as God intended. Sports counteract the effects of physical lethargy and deterioration. They stave off chronic health conditions that arise from inactivity and poor diet. By stimulating movement and competition, sports promote the health and wellness of both casual participants and elite athletes. And as Christians, we honor God by keeping the temples of our bodies in peak condition.
Building Character and Community
Beyond physical benefits, sports also build godly character and community. The Bible instructs us, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Team sports allow you to “consider others” and work together toward shared objectives. You must rely on teammates, coordinate your gifts and abilities, exercise self-sacrifice, and think of the greater good above your own glory.
Sports teach so many Christian virtues: determination, perseverance, courage, patience, humility, and more. You learn to push yourself, stay disciplined under pressure, and keep going even when you want to quit. You must control angry emotions and conduct yourself with decency. And win or lose, you hopefully walk away more mature and gracious.
Beyond your own team, sporting events facilitate community among different groups. They bring people of various ages and backgrounds into friendly competition. Rival players bond over their shared experiences training, struggling, and pursuing excellence. Fans unite around enthusiasm for their team. Lifelong friendships and connections form. Sporting venues become hubs for fellowship. And the Christian mandate to foster togetherness gets fulfilled.
Caution Against Excesses
This is not to say sports are free of potential pitfalls. The competitive drive, if not kept in check, can turn into unhealthy obsession. Pride, ego, adrenaline, aggression, and raw emotion can lead to unsportsmanlike conduct. An over-emphasis on winning at all costs is worldly, not Christ-like.
As with any human endeavor, moderation is key. If sports consume your whole identity, they have become idolatrous. If you neglect church involvement, family commitments, or Christian fellowship for athletic pursuits, your priorities are off. Be wary of coaches or teams who demand total loyalty or conformity without regard for your faith.
Set boundaries so sports enrich your life without distracting from higher callings. Derive meaning and satisfaction from sportsmanship, effort, growth, and fitness more than trophies and titles. Avoid über-competitiveness or playing through injurious pain just to win. Make sure your participation uplifts others and reflects God’s values.
Biblical Figures Who Embraced Physical Pursuits
With the right perspective, sports and athletics can clearly align with a biblical lifestyle. Several heroes of the faith were known for their physical abilities. Here are a few examples:
David: Before fighting Goliath, this future king was said to be “a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and handsome” (1 Samuel 16:18). His exploits included slaying lions and bears while protecting his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:34-36). David was no passive shepherd boy, but rather an athlete whose courage, coordination, and skill foreshadowed his military leadership.
Sampson: Famous for his long hair and superhuman strength, Sampson was set apart from birth for great physical feats. The Bible says “the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him” (Judges 13:25), empowering him to tear apart a lion and defeat hundreds of Philistine soldiers. His God-given might made him a force to be reckoned with.
Jacob: After working seven years to marry Rachel, this patriarch was deceived into wedding her older sister Leah. Jacob responded by committing to another seven years of labor so he could rightfully earn Rachel’s hand. Genesis 29:20 says those 14 years “seemed but a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” His passion and perseverance through hardship put his physical stamina on full display.
Abraham: At the age of 75, this father of many nations packed up his whole household on foot and set out for Canaan in response to God’s call. He covered over 500 miles on rugged ancient trails, marching his family and flocks all the way from Haran to the Negev. As a senior citizen, Abraham’s fitness and health were remarkable.
Job: This man’s devotion to God remained strong despite losing everything. After being afflicted with painful sores, Job shaved his head, fell down in worship, and exclaimed, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Athletes know that true grit comes from deep within. Job had that grit in spades.
The greatest figures of the Bible were not weaklings or layabouts. They stood out for their vigor, hardiness, discipline, determination, and physical skill by the grace of God. Sports can help develop and demonstrate those same qualities today.
Playing for God’s Glory
So is participating in sports and athletics permissible for followers of Jesus Christ? Absolutely! God gifts people with athleticism and abilities. He calls us to steward our health, serve others, and build community. When pursued in a godly manner, sports provide great opportunities to live out biblical values.
Just remember to keep your priorities straight. Don’t let competitiveness or pride rule your heart. Avoid compromising your values or overstraining your body chasing accolades. Make sure your participation reflects Christ and points others to Him. Honor your commitments to God, family, church, and teammates in that order.
At the end of the day, do everything for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Work hard, develop your gifts, and thrive athletically with thanksgiving. Let your character on and off the field be a shining light. And continue growing in your relationship with Jesus above all else.
If you follow this game plan, you can feel confident that playing sports is no sin – it’s a celebration of the gifts your Creator has given you! So get out there, play your heart out, pursue excellence, and have fun bringing glory to God through your athletic participation.