In a recent message by Dr. John MacArthur, he said, “Has there ever been a society as self-centered as this? Has there ever been a society this egotistical; this consumed with its own agenda? Pride and self is elevated and exalted and has been for years and years and years. Psychologists have created this thing called ‘self-esteem.’ That is a satanic idea. You are not as important as you think you are. You are far less important than you think you are. You are worse than you think you are. You are far worse than you think you are and so am I. In God’s eyes, you are inconceivably sinful. In your own eyes, you are something wonderful.”1
Bernard Goldberg, on a recent edition of HBO’s REAL SPORTS with Bryant Gumbel, echoed the same sentiments. He was discussing the culture we’ve created in America where we hand out trophies to children just for showing up and how damaging it ultimately is.
“‘We want to make each child feel special,’ says Brian Sanders, president of i9 Sports, the largest youth sports franchise in the nation. How does he make them feel special? By giving them all trophies. At an event outside Tampa, Fla. with 650 kids in attendance all will receive trophies, there is a division champion award and everyone else receives an ‘All-Star’ trophy, both prizes are the same size.”2
It gets worse.
“This isn’t just a phenomenon with his sports league. Janet Anderson is the regional commissioner in Los Angeles for AYSO Soccer and she told Goldberg for her 1,200 under-eight players, ‘If their name is on the roster, they get a trophy.’ This means that players who don’t even show up can receive an award. On top of that, her league doesn’t keep score, no one is a loser.”3
Really? Rewards (trophies) just for showing up. Or getting a trophy just because your name was on the roster? How did it ever come to this? Perhaps Dr. MacArthur is on to something when he says, “Has there ever been a society as self-centered as this?”
According to the program, the trophy industry is booming with close to $2 billion in sales. But how do you put a trophy on the mantle and have any sense of accomplishment? Especially if you didn’t even show up, or play or win?
Researcher Ashley Merryman said, “The state of California had a task force in the 1980s to study self-esteem, and we thought especially for kids in struggling communities if we just told them they were great, they would believe it, and then they could achieve more because they were certain they were great.”4
San Diego State University professor, Jean Twenge, said, “Preschoolers sometimes now sing a song to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’ that goes like this, ‘I am special, I am special, look at me, look at me.’”5
Goldberg pointed to a study in his report that showed one “third of college students say they deserve a B grade as long as they attend most classes in a course.”6 A similar study on RATS and REWARDS at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, found that when rats were given rewards (food) just for going through a maze, they ended up being lazy. In fact, their research found the rats “will not be fast runners to get to the trophy, and they will quit easily the moment they are no longer getting rewarded.”7
Paul said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, BUT ONLY ONE gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24/NIV).
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who remains stedfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
The Bible doesn’t say, I’m okay, you’re okay. The Bible says, “No one is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
In case you’re tempted to start singing, “I am special, I am special, look at me, look at me ...” you might want to read Jeremiah 17:9, where the Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.”
Each of us needs to recognize our own sinfulness and unworthiness as sinners in need of a Savior. We don’t deserve an award, a trophy or anything for that matter, certainly not Heaven. We need to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ, living consistently and passionately. And regardless of whether we’re playing a game, closing a big deal at work, serving behind the scenes where no one knows, or whatever, we need to give it all we’ve got and always give our best.
The rewards, if there are any, will take care of themselves. We just need to run the race set out for us, and run in such a way as to get the prize.
© 2015. Barry L. Cameron
1 John MacArthur. Clip from his sermon, Hope for a Doomed Nation. 22 Jun. 2015. Grace Community Church, Panorama City, CA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXjhSQTCG64
2 Alex Pfeiffer. “HBO’s Real Sports Looks Into America’s ‘Trophy Culture,’” The Daily Caller, 20 Jul. 2015, 4 Aug. 2015 <http://dailycaller.com/2015/07/20/hbos-real-sports-looks-into-americas-trophy-culture/>.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.