Is Tim Tebow a Religious Hypocrite?

In his article, “Tim Tebow Trivializes Religion” Bill Press uses Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5 to call Tim Tebow a hypocrite. 1 In light of Press labeling Tebow a hypocrite he also wishes that Tebow would “STFU”.2 Press, a Roman Catholic, attended a Catholic university and earned a degree in theology.3 The 71 year old Press, then, would be considered an older more learned man than Tebow who, it seems, should have some wisdom to share.

Did someone say hypocrisy?

In Matthew 5, Jesus did say:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 ESV)

Press’ rhetoric is simply proof-texting. Several chapters later Jesus’ public prayer of thanks is recorded.

[Jesus] took the seven loaves and the fish, and chaving given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (Matthew 15:36 ESV)

Press may want to reconsider his use of Scripture against Tebow. He may want to read Ephesians 5:4 for himself which is about foolish and filthy talk.

Press continues.

Broncos quarterback Tebow’s not only a Christian. He wants everybody to know he’s a Christian. He brags about it, constantly. He wears Bible verses on his face. He kneels in prayer after every touchdown. And he thanks his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for every win.

Is it wrong for Christians to want people to know they are Christians? Did the memo get misplaced? If anything, too many Christians may unintentionally (or intentionally) hide that they are Christians. Is Tebow really bragging about being a Christian or is he just truly thankful and unashamed?

Tebow wearing Bible verses on one’s face is too much for some. How about kneeling in prayer? Maybe that is too much too, but the type of actions Tebow is doing already existed within the NFL culture. Players do all kinds of things after a touchdown or a good play. Here in Atlanta the “Dirty Bird” dance started several years ago, but much is not made of these kinds of celebrations. Should Tebow not thank the Lord for victory? He also thanks his team. What will really be telling is Tebow’s public response after losing.

There’s only one thing wrong with that. By dragging God into every football game, Tebow makes a mockery of Christianity – and trivializes religion. The truth is, God doesn’t care who wins an election, a bingo game, or a football game. Sorry, Tebow, Jesus is not a Broncos fan.

Are there a parts of life into which Christians shouldn’t drag God? Are there parts of life from which Christians should exclude God? Scripture does tell us to do all things for God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31) and to hold every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). By my estimation, Tebow is not trivializing religion or making a mockery out of Christianity, but upholding Christianity as the true religion that it is. God may not care who the particular winner of a game or an election is, but God does sovereignly work all things together for good for the believer (Rom. 8:28). We do not know God’s divine purposes in who ultimately wins or losses.

Now, if you’re one of the silly millions of Americans who loves Tebow’s in-your-face kind of Christianity, consider this. What if he were a devout Muslim, who bowed to Mecca after every touchdown and shouted “Allahu Akbar?”

Somehow, I don’t think we’d be celebrating him as a national hero.

How exactly is Tebow’s expression of Christianity anymore “in-your-face” than everything else that is celebrated about American celebrities? Ironically enough, Press is paid to talk, write and think (?) about various aspect of American culture yet does not realize that what Tebow is doing is very much a part of said culture. Americans have a plethora of celebrity gossip and other garbage with which to pollute their minds, so a few moments of Tebow’s display of faith isn’t going to hurt anything. His display of faith may be refreshing for some and may even have some positive effects.

And Mr. Press, if a devout Muslim shouted “Allahu Akbar” after every touchdown maybe that would allow us to have honest dialogue about Islam in this country. While such a celebration may not be to my liking I would not deny him the right to do so. My question to you is –

If a devout Muslim did shout “Allahu Akbar” after every touchdown would you write a similar article criticizing him?

I am not sure who is celebrating Tebow as a national hero since he gets plenty of criticism both about his faith and playing ability. There is something refreshing about Tebow’s public display of faith even if I, and others, don’t agree with all of his methods. 4

I’m not sure that Tebow’s talk about Jesus is the real problem for people like Press. Press’ own hypocrisy is not what clouds his view. The real problem may be just as Jesus Himself stated.

“and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”(Matthew 10:22 ESV)


tagged as , , in apologetics,Culture,Evangelism,Gospel,morality,relativism

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave Miller December 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Wow. That is irritating, isn’t it?

2 Mark December 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm


3 Ken Silva December 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Hear, hear, Mark. In my opinion, this was very well stated.

I like Tebow as a football player and I’d love to have had him on the teams I used to coach.

While I have disagreements regarding parts of his theology, I don’t see anything wrong with the way he conducts himself.

He sure looks to be a quite sincere Christian to me and unashamed of his faith in Jesus.

4 Mark December 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I appreciate your words, Ken.

5 prchrbill December 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I generally don’t disagree with you, however, I don’t think it is ‘proof texting’ to read Matt 6 since it was a direct command by Christ Himself. You, however, did proof text, by taking something Jesus did in Matt 15 and then equivocating saying ‘thanks’ for food to Tim Tebow.

Let’s make some differentiations shall we?
1. Jesus was not in a stadium with the entire crowd, including those in the cheap nose bleed seats seeing His every move on a jumbotron.
2. When He ‘gave thanks’ for the meal, he was sitting down like everyone else. Tebow takes the opportunity to kneel when everyone else is standing, setting himself apart from everyone else.
3. Jesus ran the crowd off because they only wanted to hang around him because of the miracles.
4. There were no cameras showing millions of viewers at home what he was doing.

The funny thing about this is that Jesus said don’t pray in public to be seen of men, however, everyone that argues that it is okay for Tebow to pray in public, is doing it “to make his faith known”, and what is that doing? Answer: that is praying in public to be seen of men.

The end of the matter for me is this. I like Tebow. I have rooted for him as a football player since he was a Gator. However, I will not forgo his obvious disregard to the scripture you call a ‘proof text’ just because I like him. I like you but I am still letting you know that I disagree with your stance here.

I have seen many, many players score or whatever, pound their chest and point up, kneel in the end zone, kiss some medallion that is around their neck, and unfortunately it never tells me anything about their eternal state or religion. But what Tebow does do well is talk about Christ, even when he biffs the gospel, he is still willing to talk about Him, even be thankful when Florida lost.

If he keeps doing the kneel down and pray and it drives Charles Barkley crazy, then I can overlook it, however, I do think he needs to reconsider the ‘how’ and the ‘show’.

And with that….
this is prchrbill

6 Mark December 17, 2011 at 12:42 am


Thanks for your comment and for mimicking the salutation of your favorite blogger.

My charge that Press’ use of Matt. 6:5 as proof-texting isn’t laid to rest simply by the fact that Jesus commanded it. I think you missed the reason for the proof-texting charge. Press merely asserted that this verse applied to Tebow and did not provide and argument to support his assertion, hence, proof-texing.

If Matt. 6:5 is to be applied to Tebow one must show that his motives are self-exaltation. For example, John Gill says about this verse, “Now let it be observed, that neither the posture, nor places of prayer, are condemned by our Lord, but their view in all to be seen of men; and a considerable emphasis lies upon the word “love”; they loved “standing” in prayer, rather than any other posture, because they could be better seen; and they loved to be in the synagogues and streets, rather than in their closets; they liked public better than private prayer, because it gained them applause among men.

I agree that Matt. 15 and Matt. 6 are not exact equivalents in the realm of prayer. I was only referencing the public use of prayer, motive not withstanding, since that seemed to be Press’ objection, especially, in light of the STFU comment.

I won’t address your points 1 – 4 except to say that I could also do a literal comparison of Tebow’s actions to that of the Scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 6:5. Again Christ spoke about the intent of self-exaultation of those praying publicly.

I’m not concerned why everyone else says about Tebow praying in public. I’m more interested in Tebow’s motives. Do you have any sources that have Tebow explaining his motives for public prayer?

I do wish Tebow would denounce what is called “Tebowing” which seems to be a copycat fad. It would be great for him to explain that he should not be lifted up in such actions and have this activity named after him, etc. Although, church history certainly tells us we do love to name theologies after certain historical Christians.

7 prchrbill December 17, 2011 at 12:57 am

I have to agree the ‘Tebowing’ has to stop, and he should be the one to stand up and ask that folks refrain from, well I want to say ‘mocking’ but that is too strong a word as it is most likely done in good fun or adoration. It does cheapen it, if it is legit.

I have sited Matt 6 to many and they have come back with the response, “You don’t know his heart.” I agree, I cannot see his heart, nor can I see the heart of any man praying in his closet, or not bowing his head in public because he is afraid to be seen of men. Regardless, I can only go with what Christ said. I have noticed, however, that since it has become a media blitz, the camera was on him quite a bit during the Bears game, and I didn’t see him (I didn’t watch every minute) praying on camera. Perhaps it was not his intention to be seen and he has put a stop to it, or he has been corrected by his Pastor or someone and has repented of doing it. Regardless, I enjoyed the win over my Bears and it not turning into a “watch Tebow pray his team to victory” sports event.

with that…
this is prchrbill

8 mark December 18, 2011 at 8:27 pm

You can dance around it all you want….Jesus SPECIFICALLY addressed the subject of public prayer….flat out…end of story. When Tebow is doing it MILLIONS of people are watching not just 20 people like in Jerusalem back in Jesus’ day….he is putting on a show and garnering attention for HIMSELF……something Jesus had pure disdain for…..Gee…I’m PRETTY SURE he made it blatantly simple…PRAY ALONE INSIDE….can you not read his direct QUOTE!!???…what is confusing about it??? You disrespect the word of the lord by not following his plain and simple instruction…..

9 Mark December 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm


Have YOU been to the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too? APPARENTLY…not!


I’ve already give John Gil as one commenter who disagrees with you. Let’s look at the whole passage in question.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)

It is clear that Jesus is not commanding a banishment of all public prayer, but the public prayer that is done with impure motives.

Tebow may be praying out loud in order to promote himself just as the scribes and Pharisees did in this passage. However, he may not be. We are to be discerning, of course, but as of yet I am willing to extend some grace and say Tebow is not self-promoting. He could be a bit misguided and simply immature in this situation. Until there is explicit evidence otherwise, I’m going to be aware, but be gracious.

10 Peter L December 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm

While I am no fan of all the dances and other end-zone celebrations, Tebow has all the right to publicly thank God for helping him succeed. To say it is hypocrisy is to say he does not live a Christ-like life off the field. That of course, is not the case. I have not heard that he does anything to dishonor Christianity when off the field.

It’s just too bad he played/plays for teams I don’t like.

11 prchrbill December 21, 2011 at 12:09 am

“Have YOU been to the Derek Zoolander Center For Children Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too?”


12 Teeter December 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

I find the practice of thanking God for athletic success insulting on a slightly deeper level. Let’s say you’re watching your child play football and as he runs past you carrying the ball, you stick out your foot and trip the kid on the other team trying to catch your boy. Wouldn’t it be cheating to intervene in that way?

To suggest that God would do something similar – to actually have His hand in the outcome of a sporting event – is no different. By kneeling or thanking God post-game, you are suggesting that God has intervened (cheated).

The actual public display of spiritual thanks is really more of a display of egotism from the player. You don’t see a bus driver kneeling in prayer after successfully completing his route, or a waitress pointing to heaven after serving a table. That would be seen as excessive and over-the-top.

13 Chris @ December 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I’m not too familiar to this subject (because I live in a cave). I don’t know to what degree Tim Tebow prays and thanks God in public. So I’m not an expert on the situation.

But I can say that the problem with the hypocrites of Jesus’s time is that they were trying to look righteous on their own. Take the Pharisee that went to the temple and prayed “I thank you God that I’m not like this sinful tax collector.” Their hypocrisy was in the fact that they were acting like they were righteous on their own (and they weren’t). Is that what Tim Tebow is doing? If so, then he should stop.

Are Christians really going to condemn someone for sharing their faith on live TV?? Is that what the problem is?? If that’s the problem, then you can turn off football and turn on re-runs of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”. You won’t find anyone praying in public on that show.

Merry Christmas everybody!

14 Stumpy December 24, 2011 at 11:05 am

I agree that Mt. 6 doesn’t condemn public prayer in general, since there are numerous examples of Jesus engaging in public prayer. I would like to suggest, however, that because Tebow engages in very pointed gesturing, it does seem very much as though he’s “practicing [his] piety before men, to be seen by them.” (Mt. 6:1) In fact, it seems to me that, in context, the thrust of Matthew 6 as a big chunk of the sermon on the mount—a very succinct collection of teachings Jesus apparently thought was important—is that Christians do need to be careful about the public practice of their faith. It can backfire. Is it really possible that Tebow is NOT genuflecting to be seen by others? Doesn’t it more fit the spirit of Mt. 6 to wait until after the game and make his oblations in private? Isn’t this also true of “Christian” jewelry, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and bobble heads? I think Tim Tebow is a product of modern American evangelical Christianity, which is so concerned about losing its place of privilege in American society that it has forgotten how to obey the teachings of Jesus.

I think in this case, Bill Press has a point, and while he may not be completely right, he isn’t completely wrong, either…not by a long shot.

Faith should be shared, but it should be done the way Jesus taught: by acts of love and kindness, compassion and mercy. Symbolic acts on TV don’t seem to qualify. Those acts of compassion make people want to know more about Jesus; Tebow’s symbolic acts seem to encourage people who are already Christian, but they don’t seem to me to be attracting those who aren’t already convinced. Rather than pointing to Jesus, they seem to be pointing to Tim Tebow.


15 Luigi December 27, 2011 at 4:56 pm

A little light that headed my way through an email opened after reading some of the points here made. Psalm 103:1-2 Coincidence??? I don’t think so.

16 thatbrian December 30, 2011 at 3:38 am

I have nothing against Tebow, and I won’t pretend to know his motivation for what he does, but I do think that he is in error. There are several arguments against his behavior.

First, it’s not the time or place. Sure there is a time and place for public prayer, but it’s not when you you are doing your job – unless you are clergy. What if he were a dentist or a banker? Or, How would we feel about him taking a knee if he were a bus driver?

Second, regardless of his motivation, Matthew 6 has this covered. “Beware” is a warning. When you start going down the road of praying, giving, etc. in public and get cheered on, that creates a great temptation. He may not have begun with incorrect motives, but he may easily end up there. Jesus finishes his thought with, ” But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door. . .” This is instruction. Jesus not only tells us what not to do, he also tells us what to do.

Lastly, Tebow’s actions do harm to the gospel. Rather than draw people to Christ, it repels then. Most, if not all, unbelievers have the incorrect notion that Christianity = moralism/phariseeism. They think that it’s all about making bad people good or good people better. The world knows not that Christianity is Christ’s life for mine. It knows not that Jesus lived the life I should have lived and died the death I should have died. Tebow’s actions perpetuate the misconception rather than correct it.

17 thatbrian December 30, 2011 at 3:43 am

We are holding up Tebow as a moral example rather than Christ as a savior for sinners.

18 shaydrool February 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I guess its okay to point up to the heavens and mention god over and over. AS LONG as you are an athlete that ONLY goes through those MOTIONS, and doesn’t LIVE the opinionated, judicial life of a mean christian. You can make those gestures as long as you have kids with different women, carry illigal firearms, get arrested for murder….any of those wonderful things will make it alright to wear GOD on your sleeve….BUT, actually LIVE what you preach…….I guess thats a horse of a different COLOR.


Previous post:

Next post: