The season is here. The days are getting shorter, and it’s cooler in the evening. The fall semester of school has begun, and that means something very important has also begun. I’m talking about football! For much of the United States, football is a passion. Lives are planned around the big games with all the rituals, like wearing school colors, carrying symbols of the team mascots, and of course, “tailgating” with food and friends. It all comes together to make football “Saturday’s religion” for many.
It is big business as the huge crowds generate revenue for hotels, restaurants and party venues. Television and radio shows garner large audiences as fans devour the details of the game. The head coaches of the major college teams are often the highest paid educators in the system, earning millions of dollars.
Players are scouted from an early age as coaches look for talent to be recruited for college play later. Colleges fiercely compete for the top talent, which is required if their teams are to win consistently. The game teaches self-discipline, hard work and team play. It brings a lot of joy and excitement to the lives of the players, their families and fans.
With these things in mind, what could be wrong with this popular sport?
As with most things, timing is everything. Anciently, Solomon, the wise king of Israel wrote,
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time for work and a time for play—and there should be a time for worship.
One of the Ten Commandments given by God at Mt. Sinai plainly states, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work … For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8–11).
The Biblical Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday on the Gregorian Calendar used by most of the developed world. But, many will say, “Wasn’t that all changed in new Testament times?” Actually, the New Testament confirms the observance of the Sabbath Day in word and deed. Jesus Christ observed the Sabbath and declared Himself Lord of it (Luke 4:16, Matthew 12:12, Mark 2:28). After He ascended to the Father, the Apostles and newly baptized believers faithfully observed the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days.
For those who look to the Bible as their standard and guide, the Sabbath day, from Friday sunset to Saturday at sunset, is the day set aside by God as Holy time. What does that have to do with weekend activities such as our beloved football traditions? It only matters if you want to please God. The Sabbath is a “Holy Convocation,” meaning a time to assemble for worship (Leviticus 23:3). Paul explained in Hebrews 10:24 that we should “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some….”
Isaiah gave clear instructions when he wrote, “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord…” (Isaiah 58:13–14).
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the game of football, when and how it is played is important if one wants to live in harmony with the Biblical Commandments and to enjoy the blessings promised to those who do. This also applies to other leisure activities, such as fishing, hunting, going to concerts, playing golf, etc. Ceasing these activities on the Sabbath puts one out of step with the mainstream of society and many of the activities of mankind. It has always been so.
Will Saturdays be your “game day,” or will you seek to worship God as He plainly instructs in His word? This important decision, while not easy, is life changing in many wonderful and positive ways.
Our booklets The Ten Commandments and Which Day is the Christian Sabbath? will explain these principles of living in detail. The booklets are free of charge and are available right here at Tomorrow’s World.