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If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying = Sportsmanship?

You’ve probably heard the saying – If you’re not Cheating, you’re not trying.  These days, that’s called sportsmanship.  There’s even an extension to that saying.  It’s now If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying – and if you get caught, you’re not trying hard enough. 

Trying, Cheating and Sportsmanship

trust - cheating = sportsmanship?Parents are told they should get their kids into sports because learning sportsmanship is a good thing.  Learning to play as part of a team is a good thing too.  So “they” say.  And the parents buy into it.  So their kids get into sports.  And the kids learn sportsmanship.  In most sports, they also learn to play as part of a team.  But at some point, someone must realize that often means they learn to cheat as a team.  And the lack of willingness to cheat means they either don’t care about the team – or they just aren’t trying hard enough.

I know.  It sounds bad.  But it is bad.  And I’m not saying it happens all the time.  But watching the hockey playoffs on TV this year shows just how bad it really is.  Football’s the same way.  So are baseball and basketball.  Same thing with auto and truck racing.  And probably ever other sport that exists.

It’s August 2019 now.  Not hockey playoff season.  No matter.  Baseball playoffs will be coming up soon enough.  Actually, I moving this article from an older site that’s going away.  That’s why it’s here now.  As usual, I’ll be putting in some updates as well.  It’ll be in brown text like this, so you can identify what’s added.

So – what’s the problem?  I think a huge part is that we’ve lost the concepts of good and bad.  There used to be good sportsmanship.  And the goal was to learn good sportsmanship.  But “good” is gone from the equation.  Without “good” – then there’s no “bad” either.  It’s just sportsmanship.  Oh – and winning.  So sportsmanship is doing whatever it takes to win.  Whatever.  At any cost.

But what is the cost?  If you’re good at it – none.  If you’re not good enough at cheating – you get caught.  There’s a penalty of some sort.  If it’s bad enough, there’ll be e fine or suspension.  But what’s a few thousand dollars when someone’s making millions?  It’s no big deal.  Especially if there’s a championship at the end of the season.  Sportsmanship = If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

The real cost of Cheating and Sportsmanship

The relatively low cost doesn’t seem like a big deal to the professional athlete.  But then, those in the minor leagues or in college have to have the same idea of sportsmanship.  If not, they won’t be “good enough” to get into the majors.  But if college is the pathway to the big time, high school is the pathway to college.  So they need to have the same definition of sportsmanship.  Then the question becomes – which high school?  To get recruited (yes, recruited) to “the right” high schools, one has to be “good enough” in youth sports.  Once again, the definition of sportsmanship trickles down to another level.

And now – the parent who wants their kid to succeed in sports has, maybe unwittingly, put themselves in the position where they also need to share that saying –  If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.  And so the parent helps to teach the kid that cheating is not only OK – it’s a requirement – a “good” thing.  Given that baseball playoffs are coming, we should note that the pathway to being “good enough” goes all the way down to T-ball.  Can you even imagine?  Cheating is part of sportsmanship in T-ball?

Completing the circle, we now realize that the professional athlete, who the kids and even the parents looked up to, is also teaching by example that cheating is a “good” thing.  Because, If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.  And everyone who wants to succeed has to try really hard.

If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.  So what?

Well, we’ve already seen that “sportsmanship”, in and of itself, doesn’t really mean anything anymore.  It’s only when the words good or bad are attached that it has meaning.  True meaning.  If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying – that’s bad sportsmanship.  It’s just plain wrong.  While it may lead to championships in youth sports, getting into the right high school and college, getting a lucrative professional sports career – and more championships along the way – it’s still wrong.

But the question lingers.  So what?  Much of society has little or no problem with the adage – If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.  It’s almost become a way of life, no matter what the game, career, relationship, Etc. that we’re talking about.  All of a sudden, there’s little, if anything, that can’t be done in the name of “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying”.

Again – so what?

If everyone does it – or at least anyone that matters to us – why shouldn’t we live by the same words?

Besides – what’s all this got to do with God anyway?

This topic is coming up because of today’s Verse of the Day from  

Eph 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Instead” – that means whatever came just before this means we should be speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  

Here’s part of what Paul ways to do “instead”.

Eph 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

If we’re honest, there’s a lot of untruth involved in watching a sporting event.  Granted, there are times when it’s difficult to tell what happened in real-time.  For baseball, that’s something like whether or not a runner made it to first base before the ball.  But we’ve got instant replay now.  And still – fans boo because they didn’t like the call.  Even though it was obvious to the unbiased eye. 

And what about the times when a player knows full well that the call was wrong?  But they stay silent.  Yes, there’s money at stake.  And the game.  Maybe even a championship.  But still – isn’t it a lie to stay silent?  Isn’t it cheating?  Is that what sportsmanship has come to?  For the Christian who’s watching and thinks this is the way to play – isn’t that wrong?  Or do we just tell God to wait in the car while we go to the game?  If we’re home, can we tell God to go for a walk while we watch the TV?

26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Stealing a base – that’s OK.  It’s written into the rules.  But when the play is close, even when instant replay shows what happened, people will be upset and boo.  The manager may even go out and yell at the umpire.  Kick some sand.  Say some four-letter words.  Maybe even get kicked out.  All the while knowing, if they watched the replay and were honest, that the guy trying to steal was actually tagged out first.

And let’s remember something.  That may happen in the big leagues.  But parents of kids watch.  And the next thing you know, parents and coaches are yelling and screaming at the umpires in T-ball.  (Yes, it really happens.)  All because trying to get away with cheating is part of the game.  It’s sportsmanship.  Not Good.  But still part of the game. 

Eph 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

No, the games won’t be silent if the bad sportsmanship part of the game is taken out.  There’s still plenty to cheer about.  And as was pointed out, behavior trickles down to the little kids.  Like no more parents getting mad at each other at T-ball.  No cheating.  Only trying.  Only “good” sportsmanship.  Can you even imagine?

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Obviously, this part is only for those of you who call yourselves Christians.  Do you realize that all the activities we looked at above, and a whole lot more, are part of ignoring the Holy Spirit?  There’s no way God wants you to be cheating.  Or supporting cheating.  Not even yelling at the umpires or opposing fans.  Just where do we put God when we engage in activities like that?  You know – He’s still there. 

We may pretend otherwise, but when we become Christians, we invite God into our lives.  Twenty-four seven.  Even at sporting events.  Think about that for a moment.  Actually, lots of moments.  Like the moments at the game, when we want to be upset.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Wow.  Be kind to the fans from the other team?  Is that even possible?  Doesn’t that mean we aren’t real fans?  After all, fan is short for fanatical.

If you’ve never really thought about that, here are some synonyms for fanatical from

enthusiast, zealot, bigot, hothead, militant. Fanatic, zealot, militant, devotee refer to persons showing more than ordinary support for, adherence to, or interest in a cause, point of view, or activity. Fanatic and zealot both suggest excessive or overweening devotion to a cause or belief. Fanatic further implies unbalanced or obsessive behavior: a wild-eyed fanatic. Zealot, only slightly less unfavorable in implication than fanatic, implies single-minded partisanship: a tireless zealot for tax reform. Militant stresses vigorous, aggressive support for or opposition to a plan or ideal and suggests a combative stance. 

Tell me – even if you aren’t a Christian, do you really want to be defined like that?  Both fanatic and zealot both suggest excessive or overweening devotion to a cause or belief. Fanatic further implies unbalanced or obsessive behavior: a wild-eyed fanatic.

If you’re Christian, do you realize that this is just plain wrong?

And no matter, Christian or not, do you realize that your behavior is seen and passed along to everyone around you?  Maybe especially the kids.  No wonder today’s mantra is – if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.  And if you get caught, you’re not trying hard enough.  No wonder “good” sportsmanship is all but dead.

Paul’s not talking about one game, one job, one championship, one anything.  No – he’s talking about all things.  Everything.  He talking about something that will impact every piece of our lives.  Truth be told, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” also impacts every area of our lives.  Trying to say it’s only about a game or a championship, as we saw – is a lie.  Eventually, that thought becomes so ingrained that it touches everything.  Furthermore, it touches everyone who looks up to us a role model.  And then those people also adopt that strategy for their lives as well.

Running a race – the New Testament

Athletic games were popular in Biblical times.  There are five instances in the New Testament where the authors make analogies to racing.  Five times when competing and even winning are mentioned.  Not about “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” – but about running the race the “right” way.  Let’s look at a few of them.

Run for a reason

1Co 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

In athletic competitions, only one person / team wins.  Even second place is often referred to as the first loser.  But in the race Paul writes about here – everyone can win. 

And I don’t mean the participation trophy given to kids today – to teach “sportsmanship”.  In a world where “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” has become a way of life for too many people, it’s odd that we try to convince kids it’s OK to not win – you get a trophy just for showing up.  And then we turn around and really celebrate the “winners”.  And let’s be honest – how many kids are being taught that cheating is trying hard all throughout that process?  Look around.  It’s too many. 

But Paul is talking about following Jesus.  Spending eternity in the Kingdom of God.  Something that’s available to all.  Not as a participation trophy – but as the ultimate and eternal victory.  Not a victory over another person or another team.  A victory over Satan and over evil.

BTW – being a Christian isn’t getting something just for showing up.  I know, there’s all the talk about say the sinner’s prayer and you’re saved.  But just try to find that in the Bible.  It’s not there.  Anywhere.  In fact, the thing about just “believe” in Jesus isn’t really there either.  While the English word believe is there, the Greek word from which it’s translated means a whole lot more than believe.  It means believe enough that our lives change because of that belief.  For more on that, please see Are we supposed to Believe God, Believe in God or Follow God? 

Speaking of that, it’s kind of alike the difference between just saying that good sportsmanship is important – as opposed to actually living out the concept that good sportsmanship is important.  In fact, even important in the championship games and it makes the difference between winning and losing.  It’s not about just saying some nice words.  It’s about playing the game with good sportsmanship.  And watching the game with that same good sportsmanship attitude. 

If you’re not a Christian – maybe you don’t care.  But I’m asking you to consider it.

If you are a Christian – and if you’re into sports, either directly or through your kids – I’m asking you to examine both kinds of races.  Look at the athletic competitions – and the race Paul wrote about.  Paul wrote, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.  But what about you?  What about your kids?  Are activities and the mentality of “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” creating an environment where being disqualified for the eternal prize is a real possibility?

Watch out for false claims

Gal 5:7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.

This one is mostly for the people who are currently Christians.  Or at least who claim to be Christian.  It pretty much asks the question that I did from the previous passage.  When Paul writes about A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough, he’s talking about the person who comes in with the idea that “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying”.  One person on a team has the idea.  That one person convinces others that it’s OK.  Then that it’s essential.  All of a sudden, it’s the team philosophy.  Next thing anyone knows, someone who won’t live by that philosophy isn’t a team player. 

And then, in the name of being a team player in one area of life – becoming a team player in other areas just seems natural.  Then personal glory comes in.  If cheating for the team is good – then why not cheat for myself too?  After all, if I’m good – the team is better.

Too late – disqualification occurs.  All those Christian ideals and ways of life – they’re gone.  And so if the eternal life in the Kingdom of God.  Instead – the soul was sold to the devil.  And eternity will be with him.

Consider others

2Ti 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.


Heb 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So let’s close the circle here.  In the first passage, we see the truth that in this “race” – all can win.  Not that all will win – but that all could have won.  The second passage keeps with the plural concept of more than one winner.  It also reminds us to keep our eyes “on the ball”, to use a baseball analogy.  The “ball” isn’t winning the game or the championship.  And while getting a big pro contract might enable us to buy everything we thought would bring happiness – you can’t take any of it with you.  This life is incredibly short.  And eternity is way longer than our capacity to even imagine.

The real cost of Cheating and Sportsmanship – Conclusion

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying”.  But the cost is high.  Very high, if we let it take over our lives. 

And it’s not just about our own life.  It can and does affect the lives of those around us.  Our family.  Friends.  Even strangers who see us.  Odd as it may sound, for the Christian it can even affect others in the church.  Lots of churches have events where they either play some sport together – or attend events as a group.  Without even thinking about it, our true attitudes about cheating and sportsmanship will come out.

There was a discussion between Jesus and some Pharisees and teachers of the law regarding what is clean versus what is unclean.  Jesus corrected a misconception they held about traditions.  At the end, Jesus made a point about what comes out of our mouths.  Check it out.

Clean and Unclean

15:1-20 pp — Mk 7:1-23

Mt 15:1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Mt 15:3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honor his father’’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

Mt 15:8 “ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.

Mt 15:9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”

Mt 15:10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ”

Mt 15:12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

Mt 15:13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

Mt 15:15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

Mt 15:16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ”

And what comes out of the mouths can also show that our hearts are just fine with cheating (lying) and bad sportsmanship.

Just in case you think my conclusions about the cheating style of sportsmanship don’t affect kids, this article just came out: Little League World Series team accused of stealing signs, which is a serious offense. 

Sign stealing is one of baseball’s oldest traditions. While it’s not always a well-loved tactic, it’s a perfectly legitimate strategy … unless you’re in Little League.

Turns out, sign stealing is against the rules in Little League. It’s actually part of the rule book. So when one Little League manager accuses another team of stealing signs to succeed, it’s a serious accusation.

That’s exactly what happened with two teams fighting to be the New England Region representative in the Little League World Series. Pat Dutton, a manager from Goffstown, New Hampshire, has accused the Barrington, Rhode Island team of stealing signs during a tournament, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

As I said – And what comes out of the mouths can also show that our hearts are just fine with cheating (lying) and bad sportsmanship.  And what’s coming out isn’t good.

The post If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying = Sportsmanship? appeared first on God versus religion.

This post first appeared on God Versus Religion, please read the originial post: here

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If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying = Sportsmanship?


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