Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, focused on NBA Miami Heat superstar LeBron James in his most recent sermon in his "What Would Jesus Say To…" series and suggested that Christ would warn James against falling into temptation and pride.
"I don't know if LeBron is a follower of Christ – the more though I studied about him, the more concerned I became," Pastor Young said in his sermon this past weekend.
The Texas preacher began his remarks by reminding the congregation of James' success. Many commentators have said that the Ohio-born forward is possibly the greatest basketball player of all time, even surpassing all-time great Michael Jordan. His basketball talents have led him to every major success in the sport, with last season marking his crowning achievement – becoming NBA Finals MVP and winning his first ever championship.
"LeBron means success," Pastor Young said, describing how everyone who wants to become the best at something refers to James.
The Fellowship leader pointed out a number of examples, however, where James has made public comments that seem to focus on his accomplishments and his desires and his goals. The NBA star has even referred to himself as "King James" and has often been called "the Chosen One," for his abilities. Young argued that Jesus is the real "Chosen One," and that people's focus should always be on God, because at the end of the day, James and everyone else in life are playing "for an audience of One."
"Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth," the Grapevine preacher invoked from Deuteronomy 8:17-18 in the Bible.
Pastor Young suggested that if Jesus were to directly speak with James, he would say: "LeBron, you're one of the most gifted athletes ever. But those people you face, they are tough, but I want to share with you some other people, some fatal personalities who are trying to take you out."
The preacher then played out a demonstration by calling out these five "fatal personalities," which were represented by five actors in basketball uniforms who came on stage at the booing of the audience, which was also encouraged by the preacher. The five players were introduced as temptation, arrogance, jealousy, fear and betrayal. The coach of this team was said to be "D. Evil." According to Young, this symbolic team is more dangerous to James than any of the top teams that come up against him every night in the NBA.
To illustrate the point about the temptation of success, Young reminded his audience that the devil came after Jesus after He had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and tempted Him to turn stones into bread – but Christ refused that temptation, as well as the other trials the devil would put Him through to test His resolve.
"Jesus never performed a miracle for himself," Pastor Young said.
The preacher affirmed that "success is living in the will of God," and pointed to Matthew 22:37, which reads: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
The Texas pastor continued: "Living in the will of God is true success. It's not making tens of millions of dollars, it's not endorsing McDonalds or Coca Cola, it's not this or that."
Young repeated that he was not aware if James is a follower of Christ, but urged the congregation to pray for him and for themselves in the fight to resist pride and temptation.
The Heat forward has not been often vocal in his religious views, but sources indicate he was raised as a Catholic and has referenced God in a few interviews throughout his career, often mentioning "the man above" having a plan for his life.
"We live in a narcissistic world. Pride is not a vice, it's a virtue. Especially in the entertainment world, especially in media, especially in professional sports," Pastor Young remarked. "Pride is the frontrunner of all sin."
The Fellowship Church preacher concluded his sermon by suggesting that James and all people need to stop focusing their lives on trying to prove critics wrong, or building themselves up and allowing pride to rule their lives, but instead focus all of their efforts and desires on God.
"Everyone who has given much; much will be required," Young reminded James in another message found in Luke 12:48.
Pastor Young, who has talked to The Christian Post about his sermon series, focused his three previous weekend messages on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, reality show star Kim Kardashian, and disgraced former cycling champion Lance Armstrong. He concludes his celebrity sermon series next week, which can be followed online on the Fellowship Church website.