March Madness and the First Commandment

What are the consequences of America’s obsession with college basketball?  Most noted is the economic cost of billions of dollars of lost productivity last week during daytime games in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament as workers steal time from their employers to check on the game; or the inordinate number of those calling in sick because of a higher priority called basketball. The 8th Commandment comes to mind, You shall not steal Exodus 20:15

But more significant may be what March Madness tells us about our spiritual priorities. In other words, I’m more concerned about the 1st Commandment than I am the 8th.  What if March Madness or the Final Four lands on Holy week, as it commonly does? How does it affect attendance at Good Friday services?  How does it affect our Easter Sunday plans or any Sunday for that matter?

Indianapolis, where I live, hosts four of the Sweet Sixteen teams this year on Easter weekend. Circle City Mall and other businesses downtown that would normally be closed on Easter will be open because of the economic opportunity. Jesus Dying on the Cross for ours sins is no match for Oregon vs. Louisville and Duke vs. Michigan State.

This not a vendetta against basketball from a sports hater.  To the contrary, I love college basketball. Well, “love” may be a bit strong, but I really, really like it!  And I’m having a good year, so far. I lead my staff bracket after the first weekend – No Money Involved!  Two of my top teams made it to the Sweet Sixteen; the Wichita State University Wheat Shockers and the Kansas Rock Chalk Jayhawks.  And after nine years in Indiana, I’ve adopted the Hoosiers too. So, how am I going to explain to my elders that I can’t make it to the Good Friday service because Kansas plays Michigan at that precise moment?

No, I’m not even tempted to do that. Sure, I wish the two events weren’t in conflict, but on the other hand, I’m thankful for the conflict because it drives me back to the foundational priorities of life.  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery… The slavery that God delivered and is delivering me from was/is even more serious, my slavery to sin.  And the salvation is infinitely greater because it involves forgiveness, spiritual rebirth, and eternal life through the death of Christ for me.

Thus, the first commandment is even more compelling, You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:2, 3  How do I reject the gods that demand from me what only the one true God has any right to ask?  How do I bow in humble gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice of Good Friday long ago?

Sure, I’ll check out the game when I get home.  But please join me in enjoying what can be enjoyed, a whole range of God’s blessings, but only worshiping the true God who sent His Son to die for our sins and who deserves all worship.


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