"Smart Watch/Trash Can Cheating!"

We are on the cusp of another baseball season. Since my elementary school days as a ten-year-old playing on a Little League team, I have loved this sport! However, I have a confession to make. I am now a fan of two major league baseball teams that have been caught cheating! Please allow me to state the obvious at the outset, I do not endorse cheating. It is stupid and unnecessary. It has no place in baseball or life! The Bible is very clear about prohibiting dishonesty of any kind, "You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another" (Leviticus 19:11).

Having stated my disdain for cheating, I now want to explain the conundrum of my dual loyalties. I grew up solely following the St. Louis Cardinals and still give my highest allegiance to those "Birds on the Bat!" This is my default and primary preference! Yet, I am fond of the Houston Astros organization due to my fifteen years of residency in the Great State of Texas. I pastored in the Bayou City of Houston for half of that time! When the Cards came to town and played at the Astrodome, Matt and I donned our Cardinal regalia and entered the dome with great pride in being St. Louis Cardinals' fans!
My Two Favorite Teams!

But, when the "home team" (i.e. St. Louis) was playing elsewhere, we went to the Astros games dressed in our "stros gear" and were content to be fans of our "baseball brother from another mother!" I know some diehard fans who cannot comprehend such duplicity, but we learned to embrace it and enjoy it. Especially, during the "roaring eighties!" Those were the years when players like Phil Garner, Jose Cruz and Alan Ashby took the field and pitchers Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott took the mound for the Astros. Those guys and their team mates created some entertaining baseball for Houston fans! The Astros were hot during this time and dominated the National League West division.

Now, about the cheating. It is well known that the beloved Cardinals had to pay a $2 million fine and give up two prized draft picks as punishment by Major League Baseball for an incident involving hacking into the Houston Astros database and email system in 2017. That was embarrassing for the Cardinal's organization and for every Cardinal's fan! Then, it was the Astros' turn for baseball infamy! Two years after winning the World Series, again in 2017, and looking like the team of that decade, they fell prey to the temptation to control and find short-cuts to victory.

On November 12, 2019 it was reported that pitcher Mike Fiers revealed that during his two-year tenure with the team, the Astros engaged in a not-so-sophisticated scheme of "sign stealing" that was about as stupid as using a smart watch and a noisy metal trash can to intercept the opposing teams' catcher's signals to his pitcher by an outfield located camera and relay these to the home team's bench and players! It was crazy, crude, annoying, and deceitful! In short, it was cheating!

About the matter of cheating in life... who is the master of deceit? You know this trickster as the Devil or Satan. When Jesus encountered this liar and cheater during His wilderness temptations (see Matthew 4 and Luke 4), He answered with truth and quoted the Bible back to the Evil One. Jesus repeatedly and strongly reminded the Devil, "It is written... It is also written... You must not put God to the test!" It is Satan's modus operandi to misquote, twist and otherwise blind the eyes of believers and unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4) to the truth of God's Word and promises. Paul warned of his wicked schemes, "In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:16, ESV).

Has cheating ruined baseball? I don't think so, even though it hasn't done baseball any good! I don't believe all teams or every baseball player employs cheating strategies in an effort to win at all costs, but it is obvious that some do. Believers can't expect God to bless cheating. We must play by the rules, the Father's rules, as given to us in the Bible. God will bless those who follow His guidance and obey His precepts. The Psalmist points us to the way of the righteous, "Blessed is the man (or woman) who walks not in the counsel of the wicked... but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:1-2). Let's be known for following the rules of the Rule Maker!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

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