Does God care who wins the World Series? That’s the sort of question I’m asked every season just before or after the big game. What does God think about the World Series, or the Super Bowl, or the Stanley Cup or the NBA championships? Although I believe God is sovereign over everything, including sports, I also believe people have human responsibility. So my answer always is that God doesn’t care about who wins the big game but about how athletes go about playing. He cares more for their character than He does for their conquests.
Which leads to the Houston Astros and their cheating on the baseball field. Stealing signs has always been part of the game but the Astros took it to a new level, using the center field camera to read a catcher’s signs, relaying the signs on a video screen by the dugout, and then signaling to the batter by pounding a trash can to reveal what pitch was coming. Knowing what pitch gave an undue advantage to the batter. Earlier, when rumors of electronic cheating became known, the commissioner of baseball made clear that this was wrong and there would be severe consequences for electronic cheating.
Well, now the commissioner has revealed that the Astros cheated in this way in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and in fact, they cheated right through the World Series in 2017, helping the Astros to become the champions of baseball. Although the players received immunity, the team was fined millions, their manager and general manager suspended by Major League Baseball (and fired by the Astros owner). It has caused a storm of discussion because the commissioner didn’t punish any players and didn’t strip the team of their World Series Title.
Maybe this all seems so trivial. Although I enjoy baseball, when my team loses, I just tell myself, “it’s just a game,” and I never lose any sleep over it. What’s not trivial is the impact that cheating has on a person’s character. So, what does the Bible have to say about the Astros cheating (or any other cheating in life)?
First, cheating dishonors God Himself. In Deuteronomy 25:13-16 God commanded Israel “You must not have two different weights in your bag, one heavy and one light. You must not have two differing dry measures in your house, a larger and a smaller. You must have a full and honest weight, a full and honest dry measure, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For everyone who does such things and acts unfairly is detestable to the Lord your God.” This law commands that people not put their thumb on the scale, that we operate fairly in everything. New York Mets Outfielder Michael Conforto said, “The bottom line, no matter what we do, we want an even playing field. It’s clear around baseball we didn’t feel there was even playing field.” In a sense, he is calling for equal weights and measures. So is Proverbs 11:1: “Dishonest scales are detestable to the Lord, but an accurate weight is His delight.” The old Living Bible captures this well, paraphrasing this proverb like this, “The Lord hates cheating and delights in honesty.”
Second, the cheating scandal not only dishonored God, it also stole from other players. One pitcher contends that when the Astros blasted him in a game because they knew his pitches in advance, he was cut from his team and they stole his career from him. Another player said that Jose Altuve stole the MVP award from Aaron Judge because, without Altuve cheating, Judge, the runner up for the award, would have had the better season. And Major League Baseball is big business. Astros players received $440,000 each for winning the World Series, money that was stolen from the players that didn’t cheat. Of course the Ten Commandments remind us, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). And Proverbs 10:2 declares, “Ill-gotten gains do not profit anyone.” It seems that cheating profited the checkbook of the Astros, but not their personal character.
Finally, the Astros scandal shows our own need for redemption. Here’s why. One justification for cheating is that everyone does it. An Associated Press columnist declared that the Astros should now become America’s team because “all of us cheat when we can.” I’m not convinced that every person cheats to this extent but there is a kernel of truth. The Bible does say “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The Astros scandal shows that we are all in need of redemption. Forgiveness is only available by trusting that Jesus the Messiah died to take our punishment for sin and was raised from the dead to prove He is God. It’s the lesson we all can take from the cheating scandal.
Which takes me back to where we began. The Astros cheating scandal is far bigger than mere sports. In the game of life, God cares more about us playing the game with integrity than with winning at any cost.