I get tired of hearing how celebrity athletes flaunt their wealth and waste ridiculous amounts of money on frivolous “stuff.” Didn’t Larry have an outreach to professional athletes?
Tired of NFL, MLB, and NBA
Dear Tired Fan,
You are correct; Larry Burkett, Crown’s late founder, often advised professional athletes or spoke at events hosted by the team chaplain. While we often read about the big salaries and over-the-top lifestyles, that is only one dimension of the story.
One of the factors we often forget is just how short the careers are for professional athletes. The Bleacher Report says that the average career in football is 3.5 years, basketball 4.8 years, and baseball only 5.6 years. Some of them spend years sacrificing while attempting to qualify for a spot in pro sports. Further, is it not uncommon to see the sudden wealth of athletes evaporate through bankruptcy, poor investments, mismanagement, or drug and alcohol abuse once their career is over.
We need to have greater empathy for those who are in high-risk careers during and after their short run in sports. We also need to remember that each person has an individual choice in how they manage wealth, and there are some great exceptions to those you describe.
There are Exceptions
Although not impacted by this ministry, as far as we know, there is an athlete who is doing it differently who may impact your perspective of those who get paid well for their athletic skills. I looked deeper into the story of a very good steward who you have probably heard of.
A Miracle Baby
33 years ago, the Tebows were working as missionaries in the Philippines. While there, Pam suffered complications with her pregnancy. A doctor recommended an abortion in order to save her life. Instead, she and her husband trusted God and delivered “a miracle baby.” They asked for prayers that their sickly baby would become big and strong. Little did they know that one day he would become a Heisman Trophy winner and professional NFL/MLB player who attempts to honor God in his endeavors.
Tim Tebow was interviewed by MarketWatch. This is where I learned some encouraging things about his financial philosophy and practices.
Tim’s Financial Advice
First, tithe. Second, be involved in things that make you money when you aren’t present. Things that will earn you a return while you sleep, are with your family, or playing ball. Listen to people who have financial wisdom in areas that you do not. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. He says, “I try to fill my life up with people that are really good in certain areas because I think it’s important to be a good steward of your money and your resources. Money gives us the ability to bless and to help. It’s not just having it, it’s how you use it.”
He wants to put money away and live on a portion of it. Making memories is important to him, so planning is crucial. If you don’t make an effort to invest in your family, time can pass you by. He says that making special things happen is worth more than new shoes or clothes.
The Tim Tebow Foundation gives money to projects important to him: special needs ministry, orphan care and prevention, helping children with profound medical needs, and fighting against human trafficking. He strongly believes in helping those who cannot help themselves.
Tim’s Way to Keep Perspective
Tim starts and finishes each day with prayer. His favorite possession is the Bible he has owned since he was a child. He no longer takes it with him everywhere, but there was a time in his life when he did. It reminds me of Paul’s letter to young Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV):
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned itand how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
In a blog post, Tim wrote that his life changed when he shifted focus from himself onto things that really matter. Society stresses fame, fortune, and power, but the abundant life is not found in that arena. He defines success as “the difference you can make in someone else’s life.”
He contrasts earthly success with eternal significance in another post.
When we succeed, we get to earn more, move up, take vacations, and reap the fruits of our efforts, but when we strive for eternal significance, we become compelled to share and give back. When we succeed, we impact our individual lives, but when we are significant, we impact others. To transcend business success into eternal significance, you have to take your gifts, find a need and meet it. Achieving significance means we go beyond gaining financial comfort and we strive to serve others.
Lessons for Us All
Tim’s life reminds me of the passage in Luke 16, beginning in verse 10: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…” I am encouraged that Tim and other believers who hold positions of influence honor God with their finances and steward all that they have wisely for His glory. May they boldly proclaim the gospel and winsomely defend it.
Each of us is given unique talents, abilities, and resources to steward as well. God wants us to reflect His light upon this dark world. Let us follow Tim’s example! Join me in praying for the protection and faithfulness of those God has put into professional sports.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.