My jaw dropped when I saw the Facebook post. He was telling the world how much his new triathlon bicycle cost: $20,000. And yes, there are T-shirts with the slogan, "Yes my bike costs more than my car."
He's a good age-group athlete competing in Ironman triathlons. He trains between 15-20 hours a week, fitting that in around a full-time, high paying management job and big family.
He loves it. He is serious about going faster and competing. And he isn't hurting anyone. In fact, his super fit body probably saves us all money on health care. So why does my jaw dropping reaction say this is a ridiculous amount of money for a bike?
Some sports are more expensive than others. Doing some fun runs, cost $500. Going to the gym for a year might cost $1,000. But others, such as triathlons, target the financially well off. Some online estimates for someone training for an Ironman (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42km run) range from $7,000 to $35,000.
When adding the costs - one get an idea of how much can be spent (e.g. bikes range from $1,000 to $20,000, race entry is $880, pool entry $5/visit, running shoes $200, helmet $100 etc.). And then there are other recreations and sports that go to another level: a friend in motor sport can spend an easy $40,000/year on just running his car. Another friend spends this alone on fuel for his boat for deep sea fishing competitions.
You and your reaction
So what is your reaction as you read these amounts of money spent on sport? And do you feel the same when you shout yourself to an expensive coffee at that trendy café rather than an instant cuppa at home?
As I examine my own heart, I seem to be good at being critical of the financial morals of those who have more money than I do but can justify my own spending without guilt. Also, I say to myself, "How can he spend all that money on a bike?!"
But in the back of my mind I am thinking two things. Firstly, "but it is an amazing bike that I'd love to try." And secondly, "but I 'need' a new bike, but $2,000 is enough for me" knowing that that is still a huge amount of money that could be used in many other ways.
Part of the moral dilemma comes from the fact that our financial status is actually a gift from God. He gives to all according to His will. And we are to use it for His glory. So does this mean we live with the basics - never buy a house or spend any money on non-basics, such as recreation, sport, entertainment, coffee etc.?
Is it like a Christian form of communism to evenly distribute finances? If none of this makes sense find someone who has been a Christian missionary and ask them about perspectives on money, lifestyle, sport and recreation from a different culture's perspectives.
Our Western lifestyle places a huge emphasis on sport, recreation and entertainment. Many other cultures have a different emphasis. Which is "right?"
The classic Christian document, the Westminster Catechism (Question One), says our main goal ("the chief end of man") is to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever. Part of this enjoyment is sport. It is a gift from God. So is money as it is used to bring us enjoyment, help others and grow His Kingdom.
To ignore this and never spend money on our own health and well-being seems to go against this, especially if we enjoy riding bikes etc. But also to move into that dangerous zone where sport and its idols become the focus, rather than God, also seems wrong.
The question for you (and me) is to find that balance through honest reflection and prayer.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html