Christianity cookies notice

To give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies. We have published a cookies policy, which you should read to find out more about how we use cookies. By clicking 'Continue' you agree to allow us to collect information through cookies.

Join our newsletter

Subscribe above

What does the Bible say about sport?

Sport mirrors the ups and downs of life. In it we sometimes find disappointment, but we can also find God.

Read time: 7 minutes and 4 seconds

Sport is a pillar of 21st century culture, millions of people play sport every week. Whether it is a casual game once a week with friends in the park, or training regularly and competing to win, sport is a huge part of life.

Even if you do not participate in sport regularly you only have to witness a football World Cup, or an Olympic Games to understand how significant sport is today across the globe. But what does the Bible have to say about sport if anything? How might faith in Christ change one’s view of sport?

The Bible lays clear foundations for how to live a Christian life in the world, what the Bible says about who God is, and how to live the Christian life, can be applied to help understand the purpose of sport for a follower of Jesus.

We could say that you were born to play.

In this article three specific passages are discussed that help reveal the character of God, and how a Christian might live out their faith in the world of sport. Firstly Genesis 1 and 2, that show how God made people in his own image; then Genesis 3, when people first rebel against the creator God, spoiling his gifts to them; finally, Romans 12:1-2, which reveal how God has started the process of fixing the brokenness caused by rebellion against him.

Genesis 1-2: ‘Born To Play’

The Bible is clear that God made people “in his image” (Genesis 1:26-28) and this is explained further in Genesis 2:15 and 2:18. In the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15) Adam and Eve are instructed “to work (the garden) and take care of it”. God has put people in the world with the mandate to use the creative skills, the talents he has given them to make the world a great place to live.

Further (Genesis 2:18), Adam and Eve are told that relationships are a crucial part of life “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him”. Adam and Eve are to use their talents to build community, as they look after God’s world.

If God gave you the talent to run, jump or kick and you use that to play sport, he made you to do this in community, alongside others who share those skills to make his world a wonderful place. We could say that you were born to play.

Genesis 3: The Foul

Humanity has committed a ‘foul’ against the Creator. Genesis 3 tells the story of how people rejected God’s rule in favour of their own. The result of this rebellion has major consequences for sport. Think about how broken the world of sport is, the world of professional sport has countless stores of corruption, and injustice but so too does sport at every level. Anyone who plays sport regularly will experience crushing disappointment, anger with teammates or opponents and will have felt what it’s like to lose. So why is sport so broken?

Anyone who plays sport regularly will experience crushing disappointment, anger with teammates or opponents and will have felt what it’s like to lose.

Firstly, Genesis 3:17-19 shows how God given talents are less effective in making the world a fine place to live.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Life is tougher because of the rebellion of God’s created people.

The breakdown in the relationship between people and God also impacts relationships between people. In Genesis 3:16 we observe that even the most intimate human relationship of marriage will be painful:

“To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

This is the brokenness present in the world of sport today. Talents and relationships fail to create an environment that is always good. People fail to stop themselves and others being selfish, angry and proud on and off the field. Humanity has committed a foul. Sport is broken.

Continued below...

Christianity What does the Bible say about sport?

Romans 12: Back in the Race

The first eleven chapters of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome explain how God paid the price for the rebellion against his rule through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. In chapter twelve Paul writes that, thanks to “God’s mercy”, there is a wonderful new story for those who come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

In response to what God has done Christians can, and are urged to, “offer (their) bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” not because they must to earn God’s favour but because it is a joy to, in view of God’s incredible mercy. A restored relationship with God means that they shall have new power to offer their “bodies”, meaning the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of their lives, to their Creator God.

Worship is a matter for the whole of the Christian life not just Christian meetings such as Church services.

Through Jesus, a new relationship is made possible with the one who gave people sporting talents to express in the sports community. Indeed, Paul calls this “true and proper worship”, Christians can once again play or compete to enjoy making his world a better place.

Worship is a matter for the whole of the Christian life not just Christian meetings such as Church services. This can be understood specifically from Romans 12:1-2. The focus of the New Testament makes it clear that there is no longer any sacred/secular distinction when it comes to worship.

Since sport can be an act of worship, sportspeople can be encouraged to worship God in their sport as they play. Worship is an attitude to every action – be it scoring a brilliant three pointer or missing an open goal, sportspeople are called to worship God with every gift and ability he has given them in sport and every aspect of life. As sportspeople play, train, and compete as worship to God, they can also use sport to share his gospel message with the sportspeople they share community with.

The implications are that every moment of life, including being at the pool, on the court or in the stadium can be used to worship God. Christians are redeemed by Christ, and are back in the race.

So what is the purpose of sport?

The ability to play sport is an aspect of God's creation that can be enjoyed for his glory.

The ability to play sport is an aspect of God's creation that can be enjoyed for his glory.

Remember these three principles when you think about sport:

God made people to be able to play sport
, to reflect him by using talents to build great communities that make the world a better place to live. God also uses sport to make us more like him as we live in the ups and downs it inevitably brings.

Sport is badly broken
, human pride has made people self-centred, using skills for their own sake and so creating tensions within the relationships sportspeople have with their teammates, colleagues, and competitors.

The Christian sportsperson can rejoice
. When Jesus Christ enters a person’s heart, their life is in a position where he will rebuild them so that their sporting ability becomes a source of joy instead of unhappiness. As they offer their sport to God as worship, both during the highs and inevitable lows, Christians can rejoice in the truth that God is shaping them to become more like him through sport. This joy is such that those who compete with or against them can also experience real joy in sport.

You can find out more at Christians in Sport.


Dave Jeal tells the story of his journey from football hooligan to ordained minister and chaplain to Bristol Rovers.