How should Christians view sports and athletics?

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In our society, sports and athletics have become significant priorities in many people's lives. Whether engaging in these activities themselves, supporting friends' sporting events, or hosting parties to watch games, it's undeniable that the world is excited by sports.

Gameplay, competition, physical fitness, and feats of strength and agility are activities people have been performing every day throughout history. Games have been so deeply ingrained into the human experience that it's actually difficult to pinpoint the first time organized sports began. If you've found yourself wondering how you, as a Christian, should interact with sports and athletics, you're not alone.

Luckily, the Bible can help us better understand the role of sports and athletics in our lives. For example, the Bible uses sports and fitness to represent and explain other positive values and as a metaphor for the Christian life. In 1 Corinthians, Paul uses various sports analogies to help communicate the value of self-discipline and compares the believer's life of pursuing Christ to running a race.

Sports Teaches Discipline

"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. 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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." —1 Corinthians 9:24-27

In this passage, Paul says we need to discipline ourselves and work hard like athletes do—but in our training as followers of Christ. Paul's examples here paint athletes and athletic training in a positive light. He communicates both respect and positivity for the discipline and training that sports integrate into our lives.

Sports Teaches Perseverance

A similar verse in Hebrews compares Christian life to running a race. "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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2). We're encouraged to "throw off" our distractions and become disciplined in our faith as we run toward Christ.

Sports Strengthens the Body & Mind

In the context of such positive comparisons to sports and athletics, it seems that the Bible does not condemn organized sports or other athletic endeavors. In fact, these activities often have a wide array of benefits, many of which are directly in line with the ways the Bible encourages us to take care of ourselves.

Self-control, discipline, stress reduction, physical health, accountability, leadership, and building a supportive team community are some examples of the benefits that sports and athletics can present. Participating in sports and athletics can even offer a platform for Christian athletes, spectators, and coaches to model Christlike behavior through good sportsmanship and how they conduct themselves regardless of who's winning (Galatians 5:22-23).

Keep Your Eyes on the Real Prize

Of course, just like everything else in our lives, sports and athletics need to be enjoyed in moderation. It's easy to devote too much time, attention, or money to these activities, especially if they're highly valued in our cultural environment. These activities are meant to bolster us—to strengthen our minds and our bodies. But it is all too common that they instead distract and take us away from things that are more important, like our faith, our family, and the things we're doing to build our futures.

Paul actually used athletics again to shed some light on this issue: "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Yes, we're encouraged to pursue physical training as we are able and take care of ourselves, but more importantly, our walk with God should always be the most important and impactful aspect of our lives. Practicing and strengthening our faith should always be our top priority.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." —1 Corinthians 9:24



Sports and athletics can be amazing experiences that have a positive impact on our lives. The physical, mental, and spiritual benefits are significant, and the value is shown in the positive context in which the Bible mentions these activities. So it's absolutely OK for Christians to enjoy taking part in sports as spectators, participants, and coaches! However, it's also very easy for sports and athletics to become distractions that take our attention from Christ and from the other important parts of our lives, so they should be enjoyed in moderation.

Writer: Alex Bufmack

Alex is a man of many hats—writer, engineer, photographer, and adventurer to name a few. He can often be found chasing his sense of wonder either down a metaphorical rabbit hole of conversation or a literal deer trail exploring the amazing world in which we live. Either way, the odds are good that he is happily accompanied by his four-legged adventure dog, Ripley.

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