1 Corinthians 9:25 states, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it for a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”
The Olympics of the ancient era were going on during the time of the writing of the New Testament and although the sports may look different, human nature does not. Paul’s point is that people will focus and exert significant energy and self control toward a material goal, whether that is a gold medal or the ancient crown of laurel branches. But as far as general self control . . . I think Paul was suggesting that those who are in Christ have a higher motivation than just gold, silver or bronze. And that is why our self control should look a bit different that that of an Olympic athlete.
I have read several articles that have troubled me regarding the “self-control” of the athletes of the Olympic Village. The athletes exercise self-control in some things but not in all things! The need for the Olympic Committee to provide over 100,000 condoms which averages out to about 10 per athlete, demonstrates at least the expectation of a lack of self control. If this article or this article is true, then the Olympic Village is a den of drunken carousing.
A former Olympic athlete, speaking to the Time of London said, “Olympic athletes have to display an unnatural level of self-discipline in the build up to big competitions. How else is this going to manifest itself than with a volcanic release of pent-up hedonism?”
Self-control? I think not. But something in this athlete’s statement relates well with Paul’s statement. The motivation for earthly self-control is the wreath, the crown, the gold. Even the articles explain that most athletes have the decency to wait until after they have competed before hooking up (so civil of them!). But without the imperishable wreath before them, without a sense of gratitude to God for salvation . . . Without the hope of a “well done good and faithful servant,” that would outweigh any number of Olympic golds, people will be limited in the extent and degree of their self-control
Ironically, the big news in the last 24 hour coming out of the Olympic Village is the discovery of a bucket of contraband Australian brand condoms that were not provided by nor endorsed by the official Olympic committee. Apparently the 10 provided to each Olympic athlete was not enough?
I think it would be unreasonable for me to hold the Olympic Athletes to my standard. I also think that everybody should recognize that the problems associated with promiscuity go beyond what a condom can prevent. But in the end, my point (and Paul’s point) is one of motivation. Christians are to exhibit self-control with an eternal prize in mind. And I believe that nothing short of that eternal prize, can truly motivate us to any level of self-control in a culture that expects hedonism from our most physically disciplined athletes.