The NBA and Jesus

There are two stories about Christianity involving NBA players.

The first is from the Muslim Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who railed on the Prosperity Gospel in a Time Magazine interview. Among other things, he said:

“Like the professional pardoners of the Middle Ages who pedaled indulgences to the highest bidders, they pervert teachings for profit. These are the people that the word shame was invented to describe. . .

“According to the purveyors of prosperity gospel, your friends and neighbors will know how righteous you are by the size of your bank account and the make of your car. . .

Adbul-Jabbar pointed to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Tend to what is permanent (the soul) over what is temporary (material goods).”
“Yet, those pimping the prosperity gospel are preaching the opposite.”

I would whole-heartedly agree this critique.

At the same time, Andre Iguodala of the NBA champs Golden State Warriors, had this to say about God:

The player said he credits the team’s success to God.  In an interview after the Warriors’ win, Iguodala said, “We got a team full of believers. We all go to chapel before every game. We all believe and we all say God has a way for you—a purpose for you. This is my purpose.”

“When people see us on the court, we want them to see God’s work. We want to be a good representation of what we believe in. When you go out there, you’re not just representing your country or the NBA, you’re representing your beliefs. You want to play hard for Someone who died for you.”

As much as I appreciate good guys succeeding, these kinds of quotes always make me cringe.

Believers are to do all things heartily as unto the Lord. We are supposed to be concerned with how our performance in what we do reflects our faith and the Gospel. I applaud that.

However, chalking up a team’s success to God is pretty close to the teaching of the Prosperity Gospel–your righteousness will be displayed by earthly success, whether that’s money or wins.

I wonder when Iguodala mocked Lebron James’ injuries on the court if that was why God rewarded them. Making such “God statements” means people will critique everything you do.

Yes, we need to do our job well, and players on Golden State appear to be good guys. But mouths should be stopped with humility. There is a fine line between crediting God and being arrogant about your awesome faith. Tread the line carefully.