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The Point of the Game

Story of the Day for Wednesday August 3, 2011

The Point of the Game

                  “You tithe your mint, dill, and cumin, but have neglected the more important laws: justice, mercy, and faith.” 

                                                                                       Matthew 23:23

The Caribbean Cup soccer tournament in 1994 pitted Barbados against Grenada, with the winner going to the tournament finals. Barbados, however, not only had to win, but had to win by two goals to advance to the finals.

The tournament rules prompted one of the zaniest soccer games ever played. You’ll have to pay attention because I’m not going to repeat this.


The tournament committee ruled that, if the game ended in a tie, the game would go into sudden death. The first team to score in overtime is declared the winner. But, and this is important, the final goal would be counted as two points.

Okay, raise your hand if you’re with me so far.

Barbados was ahead, 2-0, when Grenada scored with minutes to go. Even if Barbados now won by one point, Grenada was headed for the finals.

But, with three minutes remaining, Barbados wasn’t even advancing the ball. Two defensive players calmly kicked the ball back and forth in front of their own goal, and then, to everyone’s surprise, a Barbados player kicked the ball into his own goal.

It took everyone a moment to realize what was happening. If play ended with the score tied, 2-2, the game would go into sudden death. If Barbados could then score the winning goal, they would be declared the winner by two points, and advance to the championship game.

Once Grenada grasped what had just happened, they realized that if they, too, scored a goal against themselves, they would lose the game by one point, but would advance to the finals.

The final minutes of regulation play were sheer madness. Grenada was desperately trying – not to score against their opponent – but against themselves. But Barbados was determined to keep Grenada from kicking the ball into its own net. This was no longer looking like what a soccer game was supposed to look like.

The game ended in a tie. In overtime, Barbados scored the tie-breaking goal and was declared the winner by two points.


Rules can have unintended consequences. The religious people of Jesus’ day tithed. No problem there. But, then, in the interests of being “super holy,” they began the practice of tithing everything – even their herb seeds.

Jesus wasn’t impressed by these extra rules because, while they were sitting on their bums counting out seeds and setting aside every tenth one for God, they were failing to be about the true life of God: helping the poor, showing mercy, and learning the life of faith.

When we make rules that God doesn’t make, we end up missing the point of the game.

                                        (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)