Do You Play To Win Or To Not Lose?

Welcome to Super Bowl Sunday!

For those of us who love American football, it’s a sad day because it concludes the 2009-2010 season. Although I’m not partial to either the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints, I would like to see a good game.

After watching professional football for 38 years, one factor determines which team eventually wins my loyalty (if the Denver Broncos aren’t playing): the team that plays to win rather than playing to not lose.

Let me explain: some teams play conservatively. They don’t take any risks. They avoid passing the ball (which leads to interceptions) and rely on a strong defense. The Baltimore Ravens relied on this approach in 2001 and b-o-r-e-d me death.

But other teams take risks. They pass the ball and take chances running trick plays in order to fool the opponent. Games like this are enjoyable to watch.

Believe it or not, God has a preferred style of football, too. And it translates into how he wants all of us to live.

Read about it in today’s reading.

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 26:1-27:21
Matthew 25:1-30
Psalm 31:1-8
Proverbs 8:1-11

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Exodus 26. The details about building the tabernacle may not seem relevant to you or me. I guess the upside of chapters like this is they allow you to catch up on some of your reading because it won’t take long to skim. Two thoughts come to mind regarding this chapter:

  1. The blue fabrics and gold rings were indicative of royalty; and
  2. The woven curtains separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the tabernacle were intended to communicate the separation between God and humanity. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The moment Jesus died on the cross, the curtain separating us from God was torn in two (see Matthew 27:51—which we’ll read in six days).

Exodus 27. The altar described at the beginning of the chapter was big: 8 feet wide and 5 tall. But it needed to be big because animals were going to be sacrificed on it. The courtyard was intended to prevent people from accidentally (or intentionally) entering God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.

Matthew 25:1-13. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “Weddings were held toward evening and torches were used as part of the celebration, which focused on a procession leading the bride to the groom’s house.” The last few days, we’ve discussed the importance of being prepared. This parable reiterates the point. Don’t wait to get it together, because if you do, it’ll be too late.

Psalm 31:5. Jesus quoted this psalm on the cross in Luke 23:46.

Proverbs 8:1-11. Scripture places a premium on wisdom. Our society on the other hand? Not so much. We value power, prestige, and stuff. But Solomon says we should choose wisdom over silver, gold, or rubies, which were precious metals and gems (and still are). The book of Proverbs is organized in such a way that we must read through 9 chapters of material about wisdom before reaching the pithy quotes that contain it.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 has always appealed to me. The passage has provided plenty of material for countless sermons and classes. Usually, I’ve driven home the same point: use whatever God has given you.

But now I’m beginning to question my understanding of the parable. While it’s important that we use what we have, I doubt that’s the central point Jesus was trying to make.

To review Jesus’ parable: Before going out of town on a long journey, a man meets with his three servants to give them parting instructions while he’s gone. Basically, he gives them different amounts of money and tells them to use it to build his wealth. When he returns, two of the servants report they doubled their master’s money. In return, they receive equal encouragement and increased responsibility. One servant, however, confesses that he hid the money in the ground. Furious, the master gave the third’s servant’s money to the first servant and kicked him out on the streets.

To bring this into context, this is one of a series of Jesus’ parables about the last days, addressing what we should do while we wait for Jesus to return.

Two of the servants risked their master’s money…and it multiplied. They played to win. The third servant, however, was afraid and hid his master’s talent in the ground. He played to not lose and ultimately, the third servant lost everything.

What speaks to me today in this passage is that God doesn’t want me to play safe. He wants me to use what I have and take risks for the kingdom of God. He wants me to risk conversations about spiritual things. He wants me to risk giving when it hurts. He wants me to risk…

Growing up, a conductor in one of my orchestras used to tell us, “Don’t play timidly. If you’re going to make a mistake, do it so big that everyone can hear it!”

When we make big mistakes like that, I think God smiles and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

This is how we live as we wait for Jesus to return.

Don’t play to not lose. Play to win.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What risks is God calling you to take? What prevents you from taking the risk?
  3. How do you live safe?
  4. Why do you think we place such low value on wisdom in our culture? Describe a time when wisdom–from you or someone else–made a difference in your life.

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Do You Play To Win Or To Not Lose?

  1. Mike

    Why we don’t value wisdom is my greatest concern. Wisdom is like roots on a tree. It is like the foundation of a sky scraper. Isn’t the process of growing up one of gaining wisdom from life experience – trial and error? So teaching wisdom about things like sex and government, true faith and false faith seems like a no brainer. What if John Edwards had wisdom? Don’t we expect our leaders to have wisdom? And if we have no wisdom how will be know who to vote for?
    I think gaining wisdom requires effort, or at least care, and our lives are so easy that we can focus on having fun rather than becoming disciplined.
    Chuck Colson has written The Faith, a book that explains basic Christian beliefs. While basic it is a revelation to most “mature” Christians. Familiarity with our faith will help us live and defend what we believe. I recommend it. It has been helpful to me.

  2. Pingback: Leap But Don’t Look Down: The Secret To The Only Life That Pleases God « A Daily Bible Conversation

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