Penalty of Praise

Luis Suarez netted a hat-trick at the Nou Camp this weekend when Barcelona hosted Celta Vigo for a league game. However, it would be Lionel Messi who stole all the headlines. Not because of his precisely taken free-kick to open his side’s scoring, but for the way in which he took his 81st minute penalty after being brought down in the box.

Many anticipated Suarez to step up to take the penalty in order to secure the match ball as hat-trick hero. It was with some bewilderment then, when Messi placed the ball on the penalty spot in a way the seemed to suggest he had dismissed Suarez’s hopes of a 3rd goal.

As Messi stepped up to take his penalty, he chose not to convert in his usual confident fashion. Instead, he simply rolled the ball to his right for an oncoming Luis Suarez to place the ball into the back of the net. Much to the delight of the 70,000 fans inside the Nou Camp, Suarez now had his hat-trick.

The goal has captivated the media. Some are excited by the audacity of the goal, others, find offence in the showboating manner in which the penalty was taken. What I find most interesting is, in the aftermath of the goal, the fans erupted into a long and sustained chant for Messi, despite it being his team mate who had just completed his hat-trick.

The fact that Barcelona fans decided to praise Messi rather than the goal scorer is one of the few times in football where the person who gets the assist is praised higher than the goal scorer. It reminds me of the passage in Matthew 6 where Jesus instructs us not to make a big deal out of our good deeds.

 ‘“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”’Matthew 6:1-4

Now, I’m not saying that Suarez is needy or that Messi is a hypocrite. But it does provide an interesting illustration of how to go about giving to those in need. Jesus makes it clear that our giving should not be done in order to receive praise and thanks, rather, we should do so in secret, in a way that only our heavenly father will see.