It’s common to hear athletes credit their success to God or thank God for a victory.Â Occasionally, sportswriters will question whether God cares about a particular athlete’s success or failure.Â After all, whether some player hits a three-pointer or catches a ball does seem far less important than Darfur, North Korea, or Iraq.Â This week, ESPN’s Tim Keown asked whether God cares about Barry Bond’s home run chase.Â His comments were triggered by San Diego Padres announcer Ted Leitner.Â Leitner said he has been praying, “Dear God: Please not here, and please not me,'” with regard to Bonds’ home run record chase.Â Because of Bonds’ alleged steroids use, announcers are in a lose-lose situation: do you criticize Bonds for cheating orÂ praise him for the record?Â Leitner hoped that God would not even put him in the situation of having to choose.Â (Leitner’s prayer was apparently answered: Bonds hit home run number 756, breaking Hank Aaron’s record, last night against the Washington Nationals.)
Â Keown expressed disbelief:
The news, of course, was Leitner’s apparent belief that God cares not only about the number of home runs Barry Bonds hits, but the announcer who is calling the game on local radio when he hits them.
This is amazing. If true — if a supreme being does care about such things — it’s a truly phenomenal development in the world of spirituality.
First, I like this comment because it assumes that God is infinite or near-infinite in power and scope.Â That’s a good place to start.Â
But let’s tease this out.Â Keown seems to regard God as some sort of corporate CEO who is too important to deal with minor details.Â If an individual person’s job (and that is what announcing baseball games and hitting home runs are to Leitner and Bonds) is too small for God, then what is big enough for God?Â If God doesn’t care about “small stuff,” then no individual human being would be worth his time. With billions of human beings currently on the planet, plus thousands of years of recorded history (and how knows how many thousands of unrecorded history), why would any specific person attract God’s attention?Â Even world leaders: Stalin reportedly was responsible for the deaths of 50 million people, but that’s still a tiny fraction – far less than 1 percent – of all the human beings who have ever lived.Â In the cosmic scheme of things, not a big deal, right?
Let’s not be anthropocentric or geocentric, either.Â Why assume God cares about human beings at all?Â There are billions of ants on the planet – maybe they’re more important to God.Â Giant sequoias live for hundreds of years – what’s a human life compared to that? For that matter, there are billions of stars in the universe.Â As far as we know, there could be billions of planets with life of their own.Â What makes Earth so special?Â Considering that even an average star like our own has an estimated lifespan of a billion years, human beings are less significant than grains of sand.Â When you’re at the beach, you don’t care about the fate of an individual grain of sand, do you?
Once you conclude that somethingÂ is too insignificant for God to care about, it’s hard to figure out if anything registers on God’s radar.Â Why draw the line at a person, a nation, a planet, even a galaxy?
However, “big” is only one meaning of the word “infinite.”Â If God is truly infinite, then his power, intelligence, attention, etc., extend to the minutest details.Â Compare God to a great artist: the greatest artists – Mozart, Michelangelo, Milton, to stick to just the M’s – care about the smallest details of their work, as well as the overall vision and structure.Â If God is truly infinite, then he is able to attend to not only the grand scheme of the universe, but even the petty details of my insignificant life.
In fact, this is exactly what Jesus tells us about God:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
If Jesus can be believed, then God’s infinite concern extends to the smallest details of his creation: songbirds, the hairs on our head, our day-to-day lives, even our baseball games.Â Â Now, perhaps God cares less about whether we win or lose than whether we play with integrity and grace, but that’s a topic for another day.