How Should Pujols’ Faith Affect His Contract Negotiations?

I have several sports teams that I root for but none is closer to my heart than the St. Louis Cardinals. My relationship with them predates my love for the Tigers, Rams, or Chiefs. I have fond memories of falling asleep listening to Jack Buck and Mike Shannon calling a west coast game.

In 1979 my Aunt took me to Cardinal games on consecutive nights because I wanted to be there when Lou Brock got his 3,000 hit. I’m sure that part of the reason that she celebrated with me that night is because she didn’t have to buy tickets to the next night’s game.

I’ll never forget that the owner of the now defunct St. Louis Globe Democrat invited my family to sit with them right behind the Cardinals dugout during the 82 World Series. I didn’t know then that although the team would be in three world series after that, they wouldn’t win another one till 2006.

So along with other Cardinal fans I have wondered what will happen to Albert Pujols, baseball’s best player for the past decade. When his contract comes to an end at the conclusion of the 2011 season, will the Cardinals resign him or will he leave for another team? Alex Rodriguez’s contract with the Yankees is for $27 million a year and Ryan Howard makes $25 million a year playing for the Phillies. If Pujols is the best player in the game, and no one really argues that he isn’t, then it’s expected that some team might pay him $300 million over 10 years or $30 million a year thus making him the game’s highest paid player.

What makes all of this even more interesting is that Pujols is an evangelical Christian who really seems to be a man of godly character and generosity. How should his faith in Christ play into his contract negotiations?

Tim Townsend, the religion writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, wrote a great article addressing that question. Here’s a section…

Pujols and his wife, Deidre, are evangelical Christians. They describe their charity, the Pujols Family Foundation, as “a faith-based nonprofit organization” and participate in Christian events around St. Louis — from small, church-based gatherings to large evangelical celebrations like Christian Family Day at Busch Stadium.

So as Pujols began looking to many like a typical mega-wealthy superstar athlete angling for a record payday, some have asked how Pujols’ public, God-fearing image squares with a private quest for wealth.

The Rev. Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey, a church in St. Louis that counts a number of professional athletes as members, said Jesus warned against greed.

“Nobody really confesses to that sin,” Patrick said. “Lust, anxiety — sure. But very few people say, ‘I’m greedy,’ and I absolutely think that (Pujols) should be on guard for that.”

A verse from 1 Timothy says, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

That’s the fear of many people who love Albert Pujols, both as fans and as Christians. They fear, as the author of Matthew’s Gospel wrote, that no one can serve two masters.

“For a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other,” the Gospel says. “You cannot serve God and wealth.”

The Rev. Sean Michael Lucas, a former professor at Covenant Seminary in Creve Coeur and currently pastor of a Presbyterian church in Hattiesburg, Miss., describes himself on his Twitter page as, among other things, “Cardinals fan, lover of Jesus.”

At the end of January, Lucas tweeted, “… how is AP’s testimony affected if he holds the Cards hostage for $30m/10yrs? @ what pt does 1 Tim 6:10 apply here?”

In another tweet, Lucas wrote, “Unless there is a big part of this contract that goes to Pujols Foundation ($30-50m) he’s open 2 the question. Legitimately.”

What do you think about this? Is it unchristian for Pujols to leave St. Louis for another team that will pay him more money? Would it be wrong for you to ask your current employer to pay you fair market value based on your skills and experience? And if your employer didn’t want to pay you that much, would it be wrong for you to leave for another employer who would?

The Bible is full of warnings to the “rich” but why do so many of us fail to see that those warnings are addressed to us? 1 Timothy 6:10 clearly warns us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil but why is that so easy to see in others and so difficult to see in ourselves?

Yes, I hope that Pujols stays in St. Louis. More than that I hope that his faith in Christ isn’t weakened by what Jesus calls the “deceitfulness of wealth.” But to be honest, I have my hands full fighting greed in my own life. I’m pretty sure that when Jesus said that, “It was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter heaven,” he was talking to me and you…not just Albert Pujols.

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