My boys have played quite a few sports in their short 9 years. They have a few trophies or medals that they have received for some of these sports. Some of the trophies are for winning and some simply for participation. I have heard the outcry in the last few years about how everyone gets a trophy and how this will begin to cripple our children. I have heard someone say that the kids of yesteryear always got a trophy, even when they lost, and now in their college days they are just a bunch of snowflakes crying when things don't go their way. They must not know the college students that I know. In fact, they may not know college students at all. But that is for a different blog.
I think I can understand the sentiment of not handing out rewards just for signing up. There is something to working for what you get. There is something for a reward holding its meaning. When everyone gets a trophy, somehow the fight to receive that reward for the trophy loses its luster. A reward is for those who have earned it. Life seems to be made up of rewards and punishments. It is one way to keep balance in the force. You do good, you get a reward. You do bad, you get a punishment. I guess maybe its good we don’t quite follow too closely in sports. You win, you get a trophy. You lose, you must be humiliated in front of the crowd.
We need to instill in our children that the world isn’t always fair. We cannot get everything we want, simply because we ask. We won’t always get the same treatment as others. Honestly the fairness thing is hard for me as a parent. My mom to this day works extremely hard to make things fair between my brother and me. I have tried doing the same for my kids, especially my boys since they are twins. And we have come up against where that might break down in life, just in recent days. One boy is chosen for a special activity at school, while the other is not. This has brought some tough, but good conversations about fairness and life.
Children and even adults today would be benefited from learning the value of hard work. It is important to know that when you work and do your job, you get paid. If you don’t you get fired. And fired people don’t get paid (well not from that company). Right now our boys earn a “payday.” They don’t earn an allowance, because the money they receive each month is based on the chores they complete. One time I fired one of my sons from his job (chore) at home. He wasn’t doing his chore adequately and I fired him. I used those words. He thought that was great at first, because he wasn’t expected to do the mundane job of taking out the trash. Then he watched his brother get his payday and all of the sudden he wanted to reapply for his old job. Work is important and a great practical life lesson.
While the trophy argument makes perfect sense in our nostalgia of good ole bootstrap America, it falls short within the kingdom of God. Jesus loves to take what seems perfect in our world and turn it upside down. The Beatitudes are the perfect example and even really expanded in the entire “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapters 5-7. Jesus takes what we have claimed in our humanity and transforms it into a more divine identity.
The grace that God designed from the very beginning won’t allow us to work for its earning. Grace is free and destroys the notion that the more we do and by being more responsible we will gain more from the Kingdom. We are all fired by Grace, not to be left destitute but to be free to receive a gift in its truest form. Grace is anything but fair. In a Kingdom of perfection where brokenness, darkness, and sin cannot dwell, God has chosen to not only bring us in, but also cleanse us into perfection upon entering. God doesn’t water down his kingdom so that our brokenness can join his perfection, but rather makes us who don’t deserve perfection become perfect, as He is perfect. Grace is not only a gift but also a reward. What did we do to place this trophy in our carefully constructed winners case? Well, we chose Him. We repented. We confessed. We were baptized. We followed the rules. We served others. We attended church. We worshipped him only. We practiced spiritual disciplines. We stood up for social injustice. We raised our voice against harmful policies. While all of these things are good practices for the Kingdom, they are but…2nd place. There are no trophies for 2nd place. Jesus through his life, death, burial, and resurrection wins 1st place and the trophy and then humbly designates that trophy to all of those who have called on his name. In the Kingdom we all receive a trophy, a crown but not even because of participation. No, we receive the trophy because of someone else’s participation; because of Jesus’ desire to participate in humanity and who never laid down his divinity.
Maybe every kid shouldn’t get a trophy for simply participating in a certain sport. But know this for sure, God chose for ALL to receive His reward simply because of the fact that He loves His creation.