"Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Tim 4:7b-8 ESV).
We often forget how radical the teachings of Scripture are. We have learned to justify away the rough edges and waterdown the tonic of truth. We want to be able to say that we're right with God without actually caring all that much about following God. We have adopted fun sayings like "I'm spiritual but not religious" to allow ourselves to make a god in our image and follow this made up creation however we want. We, the created, have a tendency to substitute the all-powerful, loving, and sustaining Creator for a fickle, imaginary, fun-loving god who conveniently loves everything that we love and believes everything that we believe.
In his letter to his protégé Timothy, Paul noted that "bodily training is of some value." For us who live in small towns that exalt sports, this is a tough teaching. I see sports lifted on a pedestal all of the time. It's what many brag about on Facebook. We are inundated with the athletic achievements of people and their children. Many spend hours upon hours training their children for athletic greatness. It's true that those achievements are of "some" value. The word is translated as "little" in other translations. It can also be translated "small" or "brief."
There is nothing wrong with our children having great experiences on the field or court, spending time out in the yard playing with their parents, traveling around to places with the family, and having fun. But let's not take sports out of perspective. This training that we focus on to create great athletes out of ourselves and our children is only of little value and often becomes an idol.
Now, you may think it is of more value because they may get a college scholarship.
CBS recently did an article on this. Here are few of the paragraphs from 8 Things You Should Know About SportsScholarships.
The odds of winning a NCAA sports scholarship are miniscule. Only about 2 percent of high school athletes win sports scholarships every year at NCAA colleges and universities. Yes, the odds are that dismal. For those who do snag one, the average scholarship is less than $11,000.
Full-ride sports scholarships are scarce. There are only six sports where all the scholarships are full ride. These so-called head-count sports are football, men and women's basketball, and women's gymnastics, volleyball, and tennis. In these Division I sports, athletes receive a full ride or no ride.Scholarships can be dinky. Beyond the head-count sports, all other sports are considered "equivalency" sports. NCAA rules dictate how much money a program, such as lacrosse or track, can spend on scholarships. Coaches can slice and dice these awards as they choose, which can lead to awfully small scholarships.
So the sports training we put our children through is of "little", "small", "brief", and "some" value. Maybe we're banking on a sports scholarship or them just becoming locally famous when they are in high school through their athletic prowess. Whatever the case, we need to just make sure they are having fun and realize that these athletics skills are relatively insignificant to developing their spiritual life.
Traning our children to be godly should be more important than training them to be athletic. Now, we can even use the insignificant sports to train our kids skills that are significant, but that is often forgotten during the heat of the game.
It is of more "value" or more "profitable", depending on the translation, to invest in our children's spiritual lives. Send them to VBS as well as or instead of a sports camp. Skip a sport event to attend church with your children rather than skipping church to do sports. That right there would teach them that God is more important than sport, although the message we often send is the other way around.
And it isn't just sports. That's just the one idol that Paul picked on in his letter to Timothy. It can be anything. It can be education, entertainment, art, or something else. Whatever we place above God is not as important as God. And yet we do it time and time again.
We have a well-meaning generation raising kids who were raised in church but have decided that church isn't important for their children. There is something about church that the parents just don't like. They want their children to have that same spirituality, but they are trying to do it outside of church. It is proving to be a fruitless policy, and we are raising a godless generation. A generation who is selfish and arrogant. A generation who is like we would be without God. A generation, who like us, needs to place growing in God above everything else. Yet when we fail to do that, we make it harder for them.