Richard Sherman, the Forbes Article, and a Little Thing Called Humility

shermanAs much attention as it’s gotten on social and other media outlets, the Richard Sherman fiasco—a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks who made a game-winning play and then ranted about it on national TV—was for the most part not surprising.

Say what you will, the NFL is a fairly brutal sport in which some of the strongest, most athletic (yet childish) men on the planet try to beat each other to a pulp. The NFL has had it’s fair share of trash-talking idiots, too—from Terrell Owens to Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Vanderjagt to Shannon Sharpe. I say this as a fan of the game; it’s just a fact.

In case you missed it, Sherman screamed the following into the camera as he responded to sideline reporter Erin Andrews’ question about the final play of the game:

“I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me. […] Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”

Without question it was one of the most arrogant, classless tirades I’ve seen in sports. Tony Dungy tweeted something to the same effect, as did ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth. They were both right.

But then there were the voices of people actually supporting Sherman for what he said. The most viral article was probably the one written by Tommy Tomlinson of Forbes, who said Sherman is no fool but is smarter than us because he went to Stanford, and that his response was probably the most appropriate thing that could have come from that game.

I read the article and didn’t think much of it…until I saw a famous Christian rapper tweet approvingly about it, and then a flurry of other Christians giving their “amen.”

Here’s my problem—and it doesn’t take an advanced theological degree to figure out—Sherman’s rant is a classic case of arrogance. Like Pride 101. Like basic Christianity. Like if I said that my mama would have slapped me right across the mouth and sent me to bed without dinner. Like my dad would have told me to shut my mouth, act like a gentleman, have a little class and go apologize to Erin Andrews.

It’s not about telling the truth or celebrating in victory; it’s about gloating over your opponent, praising yourself, and claiming glory for yourself in an arrogant, proud and undeserved way.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2).

“I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Rom. 12:3).

“What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor. 4:7).

What Sherman said, and the way he said it, isn’t true. He gave glory to himself when, in point of fact, the glory belongs to God—that’s who made him, gave him talents, and demands the praise when those talents are utilized. Furthermore, those gifts are meant to serve others and glorify God, not to aggrandize yourself.

The lack of discernment here is appalling. Have we become so dull in the Christian community, so saturated with the atheistic mindset of the world that we can’t even spot arrogance in its most basic form and call it for what it is?

I think part of it is our infatuation with all things “authentic.” We applaud Sherman because in a world of phonies, he was “just being real.” We’ve drilled it into our kids: Just be yourself. Say what you think. Follow your heart. But what happens when our hearts are consumed with evils like self-glorification, hatred or pride? Should we follow our hearts then?

And as we celebrate false gods like authenticity, we ignore the true standard of what is or isn’t appropriate—God’s word. Pride isn’t what I say it is or what you think or what some reporter writes for Forbes. Pride is defined by God alone. It’s stealing the glory for yourself that only God deserves. It’s not hard to see that’s exactly what Sherman did.

Finally, wisdom and folly have got nothing to do with where you went to school, and this fact should be obvious to Christians. What makes you a fool is exactly what Sherman did—he chose the path of self-glorification, gloating over an opponent and arrogance, rather than humbly giving thanks to God for his abilities and the opportunity he’s been given. Folly isn’t about going to Stanford; it’s about rejecting the God who made you and refusing to give him the glory he deserves (see Proverbs).

Did Sherman act the fool? According to God’s standard, absolutely. No question. So why are so many Christians celebrating his behavior?

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