It's World Cup time - so some thoughts on Neymar, the Brazilian superstar.
Neymar is more than just a footballer. He is a brand and a way of life. The Brazilian star is the epitome of modern football as he travels the world with his friends in his luxurious private jet. He owns a fleet of opulent motor cars, an elegant helicopter and an Italian yacht. On a whim he once sent a private jet to fly a girlfriend to visit him in Barcelona after the pair had met in Ibiza. In a fit of splashing the cash he squandered more than £14,000 on trainers in one shopping spree. Neymar also claims to be a Christian. He declared: "Life only makes sense when our highest ideal is to serve Christ." After winning important games for club and country, he has been known to wear a headband bearing the words "100% Jesus".
Many of the most famous footballers on the planet own private jets. These are the role models that capture the imaginations of millions of young people today. Often these 'rich young rulers' do not comment about Jesus, faith and God. It seems to many that they live as if there is no God and that they are free to squander their vast fortunes in any way they wish. These rich, powerful men are completely autonomous (self-governing). Neymar claims to be a Christian and yet his lifestyle is just as lavish and whimsical as the other footballing superstars. How can we make sense of this fierce commitment to luxury, opulence and autonomy? It is helpful to ask a simple question. What is Neymar learning about the kingdom of God when he goes to church? Does he know and love the biblical story? Or has he syncretised the Christian faith with western consumerism? Jesus challenges all humans to forsake their false gods and to follow Him. There are so many of these idols that it can boggle the mind. There are rat gods, technology gods, fashion gods but the money god is probably the most popular deity today. Is Neymar guilty of serving Mammon, the money god (Matthew 6:24)? How will things go for him on the Day of Judgment? Why is it so easy for self-proclaimed Christians to worship these false gods? What are they learning in their churches? What are they not learning in their churches?
Four Ways of Looking at the Story
Materialist faith: "We believe that Neymar is doing the right thing. If everything is just physical then buying jets, helicopters and mansions makes perfect sense."
Relativist faith: "We believe that Neymar is being 'true to himself'. Congratulations!"
Karma faith: "We believe that Neymar is so wealthy because he has an excellent karma. Whatever is, is right."
Christian faith: "We believe that Neymar will be judged one day by Christ the King. He must repent, follow Jesus and become a much better steward of his wealth."
1) Why do many footballers follow the money god rather than Christ?
2) What does it mean to serve Jesus 100%?
3) Can you connect this story to the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12?