Playing to Lose

by Melissa Slocum

The referee had never seen anything like it. Both teams tried to draw fouls, miss free throws, and avoided taking shots at their own basket. Starters from both teams sat on the bench during the first half of the tournament game. Why? Both teams knew that the winner of the game would advance and be seeded to play the No. 1 team in the region, which would likely mean a loss and failure to advance to the next level. As we head into March Madness, it’s hard to believe that two basketball teams would intentionally try to lose the same game. Fortunately for college fans this was not college-level play and the brackets are safe. But two Tennessee high school girls’ basketball teams were banned from the rest of the tournament and placed on probation during next year’s season for trying to lose their game.

 

Local school officials, parents, and fans responded with disappointment that those coaches and players would intentionally try to lose a game in order to avoid playing a better team. You might not see any harm in such strategy, thinking that the end justifies the means. But in competitive sports, “throwing” a game is cheating. We have the experience to know challenges are part of life and simply cannot be avoided. Christians are called to prepare ourselves for and navigate through inevitable life challenges, including facing tough opponents, losses, or seemingly impossible situations.

 

Scripture has a lot to say about confronting challenges head-on instead of hiding our talents. Remember the story of the boy David who faced the giant warrior Goliath with nothing more than his faith in God and a slingshot? Also, what about Esther who risked her life to appear uninvited before her husband, the king, in order to save her people. Even the story of Jonah, who at first fled from the work God had for him, points us to how God continually calls and uses us despite our size, education, experience, abilities, or fears. Hiding ourselves or our talents and shrinking from challenges never glorifies God. Regardless of the challenges that come our way, we can face them confidently using our God-given gifts and knowing that God will be with us every step of the way

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