FIRST-PERSON: Pujols & millionaire athletes
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)--Albert Pujols believes he should be the highest paid player in baseball. Not all baseball fans agree. Some are saying that Pujols is too greedy.
Others lay the blame on the owners, saying they are too stingy. Then there are some who say both sides are to blame.
And there's a certain segment of the population that turns this debate into a chance to voice their disapproval of ballplayers making so much more than everyone else, making it a moral issue.
In stories regarding the ongoing Albert Pujols contract saga in recent days, one does not have to scroll down very far into the comment sections to find statements like these:
"The teachers in my school district only got a 3% raise this year and he wants to double his salary. Let's get our priorities in line."
"I am in the military and my job is far more important than his. There is no way a man playing a game should make that much more than me."
These arguments sound reasonable on the surface. It doesn't seem right that ballplayers are multi-millionaires while the teachers who are molding our children and soldiers who are defending our country struggle to pay their bills. But is it really that simple?
As Christians we are called to be discerning. We are to love the Lord with all of our minds. So let's apply a little thinking to this issue.
Here are the facts. Pujols is worth millions of dollars a year to Cardinals owners because Pujols goes a long way in helping the Cardinals win games, which helps put 30,000-40,000 people in a stadium 82 times a year in St. Louis, helps in selling a lot of Cardinals merchandise and helps with profits from television.
We live in a free country with a free market. The free market is driven by supply and demand. Fans who think the players are making too much money have a choice in the matter: They can choose to stop buying tickets to go to games, quit purchasing Pujols jerseys and stop watching or listening to Cardinals games. If enough fans do this, the Cardinals will truly not have the money to double Pujols' salary.
The Bible teaches principles that point to a free market economy. Many theologians point back to the Genesis account in which God gave man dominion over the earth as the foundation for our current understanding of private personal wealth and ownership. When God gave the law through Moses, it's clear that God expected private property ownership of land and animals and goods.
While there are some limits on interest, debt and property transfers, the Old Testaments laws fit a free market. Many of the Proverbs would make very little sense in a socialist or communist country.
Even in the New Testament, the free market ideology stands. While there have been some who have attempted to argue for socialism or communism by pointing to the example of the Christians in the early part of the Book of Acts, a careful examination of the relevant texts reveals that believers were never forcibly required to give up their money or possessions for equal communal distribution. The consistent pattern among the apostles was to teach the early believers to give freely from a generous heart. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7).
In a free market, money goes where people place value. And if Americans don't want Pujols and other athletes to make so much money entertaining them, then Americans should stop valuing entertainment through sports so much. Follow where the money goes and you will find people's hearts. Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also" (Luke 12:34).
Brett Maragni is senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel of Jacksonville, Fla.