Where Does God's Wisdom Apply?

Recently I have been teaching the book of Proverbs to some of the young people at our congregation, and the first chapter states that it is addressed to both young and old, the experienced as well as the inexperienced (naive, etc.) See Pro. 1:2-5. In the same chapter, wisdom is personified as a person who cries out both in the open square and at the gates of the city. “Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings” (Pro. 1:20-21). This teaches that God’s wisdom is both for the people and their leaders. Those who are complacent or refuse to listen are doomed to suffer the consequence of their own stupidity (see Pro. 1:29-33).

The book of Proverbs is especially good instruction for young people and covers every aspect of life. It teaches the importance of godly wisdom in such personal things as sex, marriage and the home as well as all social relationships, including civil government by defining both godly and ungodly rulers and the effect of both upon society. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Pro. 14:34). The point is that God’s wisdom applies to all people everywhere. A failure to heed God’s wisdom destroys societies but a willingness to listen enriches everyone.

The truth of this principle is driven home everyday as we observe human behavior and headlines in the newspaper. It is impossible to separate spiritual and moral principles from every aspect of life including politics and current social issues. Driving home this reality is what I try to accomplish in Pitching For The Master. This is the larger issue that drives all other issues. One reason I believe that God’s wisdom applies to all men everywhere is because all men have been created in the image or likeness of God (see Gen. 1:26). God has wired us for right moral conduct, as the wise man wrote: “This only have I found: God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.” (Ecc. 7:29). Perhaps I will later write an article that will elaborate more on this.

Having an interest in baseball (but not to the point of compulsion or idolization), I recently decided to subscribe to one of the best magazines to cover sports, “SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.” I was seduced by the low price of $20 to cover an entire year. My first copy was the March 12, 2012 issue. In this issue, one article after another covered some of the major scandals in sports. One article was titled, “The Saints’ Pay-To-Injure Program Rattles The NFL.” This article describes in detail a policy to actually injure players on the opposing teams with bounties (money) given to the most successful players in accomplishing this goal. A lot of players throughout the league were interviewed, and many stated that although they do not approve of what these particular players have done, in football, intimidation is the name of the game. It is normal, they say, to want to put as much hurt on the opposition as possible, and if it takes them out of the game, so be it. Another major article was about a famous baseball player, Lenny Dykstra, who has been sentenced to prison, after a long history of taking advantage of his celebrity status to defraud and cheat people, and how this shyster has fooled and used many top names in high places and in the game. It is a story of greed, power, glory seeking and narcissism in its rawest form. Most all of the other articles were in one form or another tied to these major stories. If anyone thinks that morals or spiritual values do not matter in society, and all that matters is how successful we are or how well we play the game, then he/she needs to read these articles. By the way, I am all for more transparency if it is not selectively and hypocritically done. Sportswriters also could use a little more exposure and honesty about their own lives.

To some degree baseball has understood the importance of addressing the issue of morals. Years ago, Major League Baseball set up a devotional program administered through the Commissioner’s office. Such programs may put on a good face, but they will always fail because they simply do not recognize the differences in religious beliefs and set forth the idea that “one model fits all”. In its defense, it was a totally volunteer program. But putting it through the Commissioner’s office takes it to a different level. The best approach is to allow freedom for every person to worship according to his own conscience, as I was allowed to do for twenty years while playing Major League Baseball. Also, to allow the Bible to be freely taught at the initiation of the players, etc. Organized baseball is not designed to replace the church. For those in baseball to create an atmosphere for good morals and honesty is always good. But this has to do more with the quality of the people in the game than any organizational structure. Considering what actually goes on in the game, I feel anyone’s pain in attempting to make things better in terms of these broader principles that affect every person’s conduct. Baseball certainly needs more “good, moral, upright, honest, straight shooting guys” at all levels. Yes, baseball needs to be concerned about the integrity of the game, but that depends upon having open, honest and good policies and having leadership by men of good character. But any effort to do this can be impacted greatly by commercial interest.

I have long believed that most, if not all, major scandals in sports have as the root cause a lack of spiritual and moral values. Folks, no country can long survive without moral principles. No community can survive without the application of right conduct. No family can survive without God’s timeless values. I do not fault the magazines for bringing out scandalous facts. There was a time in the past when these kind of stories would not hit the newsstands, when the lives of our sports heroes was “covered up” by a willing press, wanting to protect the icons of the game. No one wanted bad publicity that might tarnish the game and affect the gate receipts. But this willingness to sweep everything under the rug has led to greater and greater problems. In baseball it has led to the age of “steroid abuse” as well as other problems. Let me emphasize this, baseball is no better than the quality of the people who play the game and run the sport. It is not just about winning and losing. Yes, I am getting turned off by a lot of things that are happening in the sports field. Sports do not automatically teach values to young people, although the opportunity is there for good coaches and parents who understand the importance of this. I am still old fashioned enough to believe that sportsmanship, teamwork, clean language and putting others first still applies on the sports field. Sports certainly do not automatically teach the right values, especially when such reach the professional level where it is often all about money and on-the-field performance.

Anyone who concludes that godly principles of proper behavior toward others do not apply in society, on the sports field, or in politics, is believing in a fantasy world. The golden rule , “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31), will never become outdated. Also, a little humility along the way would not hurt. “Humility in Sports” is the title of my next article.

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Folks, I did not write an article in February, and am late for this article in March. So I should say that my policy is to attempt to write an article each month, but it may vary from time to time. Good thing I am not working for a company that has a deadline to meet!!

The photo at the beginning of this article is old “Sportsman Park” in St. Louis where I pitched for many years, joining the Cardinals in 1955. I was the last pitcher to go to the mound in the old park. This happened when I was playing for the San Francisco Giants in 1966. I pitched five innings in relief to pick up a win on May 8, 1966. After that game, the Cardinals moved to their new stadium on the water front.

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