A liberal columnist from Virginia has written an article comparing Tim Tebow to the Pharisees that Jesus Christ often had to contend with, saying that the way the Denver Broncos quarterback prays on the sidelines at NFL games is just as bad as the way Pharisees prayed on street corners to gain attention.
“Jesus Christ blasted the Pharisees for making a Hollywood production out of praying,” Robert Paul Reyes wrote in an article that was published Monday by The Student Operated Press.
“These religious leaders, clad in their flowing white robes, loved to pray in public, where they could be seen by everyone. The humble carpenter from Nazareth warned these sanctimonious hypocrites: Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell?”
He says that every time Tebow prays on the football field he violates Jesus' command in Matthew 6:5, which says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
But is there a difference between Tebow's on-the-field prayers, often on bended knee, and those of the Pharisees?
Andy Ferguson, senior pastor of Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., says that he doesn't believe that Tebow's actions are at “the level of the Pharisees.” He actually appreciates the quarterback's willingness to be so open about his faith, though he acknowledges it may be seen as offensive by some people.
"I don't think he's excessively religious ... I think there's [something] anti-religious about secular culture these days, and ... somebody [who] says 'I'm going to be religious' is going to be offensive at any level,” Ferguson told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
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When the Pharisees prayed in public, he explained, they did so to be recognized for their piety, but Tebow gives credit to God instead.
"If Tebow can do what he's doing, honor God with it, and not attract pious points for himself, I think that's the difference,” said Ferguson.
Dave Workman, senior pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, told CP that he also thinks the motivation behind Tebow's prayers is pure, although many Americans don't know how to respond to someone who is so open about his beliefs.
"I think Americans see faith as such a private thing ... When there is some sort of expression of it in the public square, it's a little unnerving. I don't think Americans know what to do with it,” he said.
Workman also says that Tebow might be going through a “zealous phase” in his life, and that he may change some as he grows older.
“And that's okay. To me that's just part of the growth ... It doesn't mean that as we mature we hide our faith more, it just might mean that we become a little bit more circumspect on the effect that our faith has on other people,” he said.
He also offered his thoughts on what separates bad public prayers from good ones.
"I think [motivation] is everything. I really do. That's the classic stuff where God looks at the heart rather than the outward pieces or the outward appearance and to me that's would be the defining piece,” Workman said.
In addition to his faith, Tebow also gained a reputation for both his late-game heroics during the 2011-2012 NFL season, which ended for the Broncos in a loss to the New England Patriots in an AFC Divisional playoff game on Saturday.
Although his future with the team seems somewhat unclear, Broncos vice president and former star quarterback John Elway announced Monday that Tebow would be the team's starting quarterback going into training camp for next season.
While Reyes seems to think that Tebow's prayers are coming from a “selfish religious moron,” Tebow's description of his own faith seems to indicate that he is submissive and humble before God.
"If you're married and you have a wife and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife 'I love her' the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity?" Tebow posed earlier in the NFL season.
"So any time I get an opportunity to tell Him that I love Him or given an opportunity to shout Him out on national TV, I'm gonna take that opportunity.”