Cheaters Never Prosper? - A Biblical Response Part I
As I write this, the athletic world is focused on the postponement of March Madness 2020, the 2020 Olympic Games, Wimbledon 2020, the 2020 Masters tournament, and the seasons of MLB, NBA, and NHL. It is a weird time for every aspect of world culture that is unprecedented and unseen since WWII. However, if you were to go back just 3 weeks ago the Sports Headlines were filled with headlines about the Houston Astros Organization 2017 Championship Season, and the responses coming from Major League Baseball. This had been coming for a long time, the Houston Astros had been somewhat of a laughing stock since their failed World Series run in 2005. In the 58 seasons that they have been apart of MLB they do not even have a .500 record (.496). Furthermore, in the decade between World Series appearances, they had only 4 .500 seasons, and 3 100+ loss seasons. Then in 2017, they won 100 games and the World Series. They had accomplished the ultimate underdog story. They went from the worst team in baseball to the best. But almost instantly, it was thrown into question. The NL Champion LA Dodgers had been suspicious from the moment the final out was recorded. The following year, the Cleveland Indians and NY Yankees had caught the Astro’s taking pictures of their dugout in the playoffs. Then in 2019, a former Astro’s pitcher leaked the information to Ken Rosenthal. Mike Fier’s blew the whistle on the sign stealing scheme that the Astro’s had used to give them an edge in 2017. They had been using the new cameras and monitors, meant for replay review, to steal signs. They relayed the signs through a coded banging on the clubhouse trashcans. The 2017 Astros were not the Disneyesque underdogs of MLB, but were in fact frauds that had cheated their way to a Championship. The Astros responded immediately by firing the manager and general managers involved. Former players from the 2017 Astros lost their coaching positions as well. However, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took action, he seemingly did nothing. The Astros remain the 2017 Champions, only losing a few draft picks and $5 million. Astro’s players attempting to act sincere gave halfhearted apologies and unrepentant remarks. This is not the first time in Athletics we have seen people or organizations trying to cheat the system, and it won’t be the last. Just in the past 30 years we have the examples of known and proven cheaters that look to have won.
2017 Astros - World Series Champions
Caught stealing signs with a camera.
Allowed to keep the World Series Championship
Protections put in place by MLB from teams retaliating
2015 New England Patriots - Super Bowl Champions
Patriots balls were tampered with during AFC Championship Game
Not stripped of AFC Title
2007 New England Patriots - AFC Champions
Was caught filming opposing teams play calling
Was not stripped of AFC Title
Head Coach named Coach of the Year
Steroid Era of Baseball
Records for Most Career and Single Season Records held by steroid user
5 of the Top 15 Career Home Run Leaders held by a known Steroid User
How do we deal with this in our world of Sports Ministry? How do we as athletes, coaches, parents, pastors, and coordinators deal with the reality that in our fallen world, sometimes cheating does pay off. What are we to do? How do we promote Christmanship in our athletes and programs, when Cheating Champions go on to glory? This is not a new question. We see throughout Scripture the Psalmist and Prophets struggle and pray through these types of questions:
“Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the treacherous live at ease?” - JEREMIAH 12:1
“Look at them—the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth. Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing?” - Psalm 73:12-13
The one who is at ease holds calamity in contempt and thinks it is prepared for those whose feet are slipping. The tents of robbers are safe, and those who provoke God are secure; God’s power provides this. - Job 12:5-6
“So now we consider the arrogant to be fortunate. Not only do those who commit wickedness prosper, they even test God and escape.” - Malachi 3:15
When we witness the wicked prosper, what is our response? Throughout the Old Testament we see the prophets constantly asking God, “How can this happen?!” Why do I work so hard, and do what is right, only to be mistreated and overlooked? Meanwhile people that have done everything wrong are gaining more and honors and awards. What are we to do? To answer these questions we must go back to the source of moral integrity, Scripture. What is it that God has to say about all of this?