A Rare Opportunity?

Ben Davis, an 18-year-old had signed professional terms with English Premier League club Fulham in July last year. He is the first Singaporean footballer to do so with a top-tier English club. He applied for national service (NS) deferment, which was also supported by The Football Association of Singapore (FAS). His application, however, was rejected by the Ministry of Defence. Davis, however, did not return to be enlisted on 14th Feb 2019, despite his and his father’s assurance to the FAS that Ben Davis would return to discharge his NS commitments. The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that Footballer Ben Davis has defaulted on his national service commitments. It added that he is staying overseas without a valid permit. If convicted, he is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years.

We do not know exactly why Ben Davis, with the support of his father, decided to default on his NS commitments. Perhaps, the father thought that Ben should not miss this rare opportunity to develop his talents as a footballer with a such a prestigious football club. Excellence, perhaps they reasoned, often carries a high price tag. It is worth it to break the law for this reason. Or is it? Such a mindset is foolish. Let me explain.

The Bible says that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). If a gift or opportunity is truly good, it must come from God because only God is powerful enough to give gifts that are truly beneficial for us. But God is light in whom there is no darkness or sin. Hence the gifts that He gives cannot possibly have anything to do with sin. In Ben Davis’ case, the opportunity requires him to break the country’s law, an act the Bible regards as opposing the authority of God (Rom 13:1-2). Thus, this opportunity cannot come from God. Neither can it be truly good, that is, beneficial for the footballer.

Likewise, an opportunity, regardless of how attractive, if it requires you to do something that violates the commandment of God, cannot be blessed by God. This also means that whatever benefits you might reap out of it is only temporal: it tastes sweet now in your mouth. But once it enters your body, it turns into poison which would hurt you. The most frightening thing is this: the benefits are temporal, but the hurts are often profound and long term, regardless of how attractive it now appears.

What then is truly beneficial? Paul says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim 6:6). We often hear that one should aim to reach our highest potential. Is this maxim always correct? In light of what Paul has just said, no, it is not always true. Paul did not say, “Get as much as you can, or reach your maximum potential.” Rather, Paul says, be contented with certain achievement or earnings, because contentment is greatly gain, that is, beneficial. But how do I know that I have reached that level at which I should be contented? The guideline is godliness. In other words, if going beyond a certain mark, though far below your potential, will compromise on godliness, you have crossed a line that God will no longer bless. “Contentment with godliness is great gain.” Do not be greedy for anything that you know will violate God’s commandments or cause you to be less godly. Do right, and even the little that comes out of a righteous act will bring you true blessings.