“No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
There are 32 teams in the National Football League. That means on any given week, 32 individuals are at the helm of one of the 32 most elite American football teams in the world. In the most recent census, the population of the United States was about 330 million people. If I have my math right, that means on a given weekend, about one out of every 10.5 million people is playing at the quarterback position in the NFL. While any one person’s odds of being an NFL quarterback are fantastically higher than winning something like the Powerball jackpot (which should tell you something about how silly it is to play the lottery), they’re still not great. That means the only quarterbacking most folks are ever going to do is the armchair variety. It’s super easy to sit in the comfort of your recliner and know what someone should have done in a situation you could have in no ways handled if you were actually in their shoes. It’s not really a good look. So, naturally, this morning, I’m going to do a bit of armchair quarterbacking. What’s going on with Tom Brady?
Now, before I answer that, I should make my sporting loyalties clear. I am a lifetime fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. I know I’ve talked about that before. Because of that, my sporting relationship with Tom Brady is…complicated. On the one hand, I respect the fact that he is the G.O.A.T. in the NFL. Perhaps there will be someone who eclipses his level of success and accomplishment someday (and the Chiefs’ Mahomes is making a play at that), but it’ll be a long time. On the other hand, Brady has been actively standing in the way of the Chiefs’ hitting the highest levels of success for several years now including the drubbing he and his Buccaneers gave us in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Those losses are all pretty hard to stomach.
When Brady announced his retirement from the NFL a few years ago after a long and amazingly successful career with the New England Patriots, fans across the country rejoiced (but especially fans in the AFC East) that someone else was going to get the chance to win the Super Bowl every now and then. He had made all the money in the world. He had a beautiful family. He was a lock for the Hall of Fame. You would think all of that would have been enough. He could have gone on and lived a quiet life, loving his family, and enjoying doing basically whatever he wanted. He could have pursued any other passion with a whole lifetime still ahead of him to enjoy it. After all, he’s only five years older than me, and, Lord willing, I still feel like I have a lot of life left to enjoy. Retirement didn’t stick, though. After a few weeks of speculation, Brady announced he was signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to continue his career.
By all accounts, Brady’s still-going career with the Buccaneers has just proved how good he is. The Buccaneers literally went from at best a mediocre team that had had only a single winning season in the last ten years to winning the Super Bowl (at the expense of my Chiefs) in one year. Because of Brady.
And then there’s this season. This seems to have been a tough season for Tom so far. He chose once again to not retire. He’s now the oldest starting quarterback in NFL history – yet another record he will probably hold for a very long time. His team isn’t doing as well as in the previous two years he’s been at the helm. My Chiefs gave them a rather delightful beatdown in Week 4. His marriage to supermodel (I say that not as an assessment of her appearance, but because it’s her job title) Gisele Bundchen is reported to be on the rocks. And just this past week he accumulated two different embarrassing reports of doing and saying things that someone with his experience and position would have been wiser to have not done and said.
So again, what’s going on with Tom Brady?
The shortest and most honest answer is that I don’t know. I’ve never met him. I don’t know anything about him except what is reported in the media which is almost certainly not the full story. I will probably never get the chance to have a conversation with him. I don’t have access to his inner thought life. At the risk of being an armchair quarterback, though, let me offer one observation.
Way back in 2005, Brady sat down to do an interview with 60 Minutes’ host Steve Kroft. This was just after he had led the Patriots to back-to-back Super Bowl victories. It was a wide-ranging interview covering his football life and personal life. He came across as an earnest and humble guy who was still marveling at the direction his life had taken. Toward the end of the interview, though, things took a turn that surprised Kroft. As the pair were talking about all of his success and the big picture of his life, Brady said this:
Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what it is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life is… Me, I think, ‘God, there’s got to be more than this.’
What’s the answer?
I wish I knew. I wish I knew. I love playing football, and I love being the quarterback for this team. And…but at the same time, I think there’s a lot of other parts about me that I’m trying to find.60 Minutes Interview with Steve Kroft
Since then, Brady has played in 7 more Super Bowls, winning four of them. He’s made tens of millions of dollars in salary and endorsements. By nearly every account, he should be living the absolute dream life. His life is the American dream in a nutshell. He came from humble beginnings, worked really hard, had a bit of good luck, and went on to become one of the greatest, most successful athletes of any sport in the history of this nation. If there is anyone who should be satisfied and always living their best life now, it seems like it would be Tom Brady. So then, why does it seem like the wheels are falling off on him?
Again, I don’t know. But I can help but wonder if the reason goes back to that Steve Kroft interview. If he had retired in 2005 when he was 28, he would have still been a lock for the Hall of Fame. Had he taken what he had achieved and gone on with the rest of his life, he would be basically starting from scratch with a whole world of opportunity before him. There really weren’t going to be many doors that were closed to him at that point in his life. And yet instead of having it all together, he was openly wondering what the point of it all was and if there was anything more to life than he had thus far experienced. And maybe in the nearly 20 years since then, he’s figured some more things out, but purely by observation of where his life seems to be this season, I get the sense that maybe he hasn’t.
Tom Brady loves football. I think maybe he loves football more than anything else. Or perhaps football has been his anchor in a way nothing else has. It has defined his very identity. He doesn’t know who he is without playing football. And now that he’s getting near the end of his career, and his connection to football is getting a little more strained than it has been before, it is revealing that he doesn’t actually have another anchor in his life…so things are falling apart. Or maybe I’m completely wrong. But the appearance is hard to ignore.
Jesus once said something that could have been a big help to Brady a long time ago. It still could if he would listen and apply. Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters. We’ll wind up loving one and hating the other. There’s simply no way to avoid this. He challenges us specifically on not trying to serve both God and the things of this world. We will invariably wind up giving our devotion more to one or the other. The challenge with serving the things of this world is that there are a lot of things in this world. It’s hard for us to settle on just one. And yet, the wisdom Jesus offers here applies whether we are talking about God and the world or simply multiple different things in the world. We cannot serve two masters, period.
For a long time, I suspect Brady has been trying to serve more than one master. Specifically, he’s been trying to serve football as one master, and his family as the other. What we are seeing playing out across the tabloids these days may be evidence that what Jesus said is proving true. He doesn’t deserve our criticism for any of this. He needs our prayers.
What Brady seems to be experiencing may be something you are experiencing in your own life. What are the various masters you are trying to serve right now. Whether God is one of them or not, if there are multiple of them, that is not a situation you will be able to balance for very long. Eventually, you are going to drift in the direction of one master or another, and when you do, chaos will ensue. The various masters you are trying to serve are all jealous for your attention and affection. If you give more to one, the others are going to start to demand you balance out the scales. You’ll feel pulled in multiple different directions. Resentment and frustration will build. If you stay here long enough, there’s a good chance you’ll throw up your hands and walk away from all of them. Of course, if you do that, you won’t stay masterless for long. None of us do. You’ll gradually choose a new set of masters and go through the same painful process again and again until you finally find the master you can stick with above and before all the others.
The truth here, though, is that there is only one Master worthy of such a position. There is only one who is good and gracious and gentle and kind and just and holy and righteous and true. There is only one who objectively deserves your followership. There is only one who will give you the foundation and structure that will allow you to put all the other things vying for your attention in their proper order and place. This master is Jesus. If you’ll give Him first place in your life, everything else will be as it should. If you give that position to anyone or anything else, chaos will be the only outcome.
Pray for Tom Brady and the chaos his life seems to be generating right now. Pray for his family. Pray for his kids. They’re hurting in all of this too. Pray for all of that, and then make sure your own life is ordered rightly and that you are following the right master. You’ll be glad you did.
2 thoughts on “Digging in Deeper: Matthew 6:24”
Good take. You could substitute the name of many people for Tom Brady. I immediately think of Michael Jordan who I have studied and use quotes because of his work ethic and commitment to excellence. But the more I study his life, the more apparent is its emptiness. Finding true meaning, contentment, and satisfaction is so much easier than people make it!
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I absolutely agree. When our lives are not centered on Christ, we are going to center them on something. If the thing isn’t Jesus, though, it will necessarily leave us empty and wandering. Augustine was correct that our restless hearts wander until they find rest in Jesus. And no amount of worldly success can shield us from the effects of that wandering and emptiness.