Have you ever heard of the musical No, No, Nanette? Probably not. How about Babe Ruth? Even non-baseball fans recognize that name. Surely any team would do whatever they could to keep arguably the greatest player in the history of baseball on their team, even if it meant trading away everyone else. Apparently, the Boston Red Sox didn’t see it that way. In 1919, after having just won the World Series, Boston’s new owner and theater promoter, Harry Frazee, sold Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees for $100,000: enough money to fund his new musical, No, No, Nanette. After the trade, Ruth would go on to dominate the big leagues and win four World Series with the Yankees. The Red Sox, however, would have to wait eighty-six long years for their next world title. For obvious reasons, this trade is known as the worst in all of sports history.1
As bad a decision as Harry Frazee made a century ago, you and I make worse trades all the time. Frazee may have traded away unprecedented success, fame, and wealth on an earthly scale, but you and I trade away eternal treasure for earthly baubles.
Faith for Sight
King Solomon had fallen headlong into sin, and Yahweh had vowed to take most of the kingdom away from him and his descendants. After Solomon’s death, it wouldn’t take long for this promise to become reality. While at Shechem for the new king’s coronation, the nation would divide: the kingly tribe of Judah would remain loyal to David’s line, while the other tribes would find a new king of their own: Jeroboam.
God had chosen Jeroboam to rule over the northern tribes of Israel before Solomon died. Through the prophet Ahijah, God gave Jeroboam a promise that sounds eerily similar to one he made to David (see 2 Sam 7:10-16):
“I will appoint you, and you will reign as king over all you want, and you will be king over Israel. ” ‘After that, if you obey all I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight in order to keep my statutes and my commands as my servant David did, I will be with you. I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I built for David, and I will give you Israel. (1Kings 11:37-38)
Jeroboam had the promise of a lasting dynasty and blessing from God. All he had to do was obey.
Fast-forward just a few years and we find Jeroboam making a foolish trade. Because the king was nervous that returning to Jerusalem to worship as prescribed in the Law would turn the people’s hearts away from him, Jeroboam decided to take matters into his own hands:
Then [Jeroboam] made two golden calves, and he said to the people, “Going to Jerusalem is too difficult for you. Israel, here are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” He set up one in Bethel, and put the other in Dan. This led to sin; the people walked in procession before one of the calves all the way to Dan. (1Kings 12:28-30)
Instead of trusting God’s promise and obeying His Word, Jeroboam takes matters into his own hands and exchanges the Almighty, omnipotent God for a couple of golden calves. He traded faith for sight.
We do the same thing.
Though you know that God has promised to provide for your every need (Phil. 4:19), you trust in the number on your bank statement.
Though you know that God has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5), in loneliness you’ve turned to another source for escape or refuge.
Though you know that you have a new identity in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), you still look for identity in measurable things—a number on a scale, a status symbol, a clean house, successful, well-behaved children, “likes” on social media, or some other benchmark of success you’ve placed for yourself.
In these and many other subtle ways every day, we trade our faith for sight just like Jeroboam. But what’s the big deal? Consider what God says about faith:
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb.11:6)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. … Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. (Rom 8:18, 25 CSB)
The life of a Christ-follower is a life of faith. What lies before us, though unseen, cannot compare with the trinkets we lay our eyes on today.
The Truth for a Screen
I wonder for how much time every day I look at a screen of some kind: phone, tablet, computer, TV. On second thought, I’d probably rather not know. Screens have become ubiquitous in our lives, for work, recreation, or research. Just this morning I taught my two-year-old what it meant to “Google it” as I typed “What is yukigassen?” into the search bar. (For the curious, it’s basically capture the flag with snowballs.) He may have just heard the term for the first time today, but my little boy will probably never know a world where he can’t just “Google it” to satisfy his curiosity.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Advancements of technology are God’s common grace to society. However, as with all innovations, sinful humanity has found a way to twist and corrupt the God’s good gift.
The power of the internet and its ability to slake our curiosity in seconds has led us to exchange the bedrock truth of the sufficiency of Scripture for a search engine. If we have a problem, the first place to turn isn’t the Word of God, but the almighty Google. We’re more likely to look for relationship advice online than to dig into the Scripture. Or maybe rather than searching for the answer, you put your inquiry on social media and let the answer come to you via your “friends.”
Satan has masterfully manipulated the Internet Age to chip away at the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:16-17)
His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2Pet 1:3)
We must not make this trade! Instead, we must hold fast to this foundational doctrine. Its value outweighs and outshines the sun of the Google universe and will for all of eternity.
In-Person Fellowship for Online Community
We’ve not only allowed Google, Siri, and Alexa to diminish Scripture’s sufficiency, but we’ve also exchanged true fellowship within the body of Christ for virtual community. Perhaps an online church has replaced face-to-face interactions. Or maybe you attend church, but Monday through Saturday you actually spend more time scrolling through your social media feed than investing in the lives of those around you. By definition, “virtual” community, only seems real. It’s a poor substitute for the true thing.
I realize that in some cases, staying away from face-to-face church is necessary for a season (either long or short). In such cases, I hope that the church you were once a part of now takes time to come and invest in you.
And I also understand that social media allows users to stay up-to-date with people they would otherwise completely lose contact with. However, being “caught up” with a friend from decades gone by is a poor exchange for the fellowship God intends for the local church.
We need face-to-face fellowship with our church families. Screens are good tools that can bolster relationships; but trading in-person community for virtual relationships is a foolish transaction. Showing up can be hard, frustrating, and, at times, feel futile. But we must persevere; the consequences for neglecting each other can be catastrophic.
But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. (Heb 3:13)
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching. (Heb 10:24-25)
You may be smart enough not to trade away Babe Ruth, but what other foolish exchanges have you made?