“Jeopardy” Judgementalism

Ramona and I were watching “Jeopardy” recently when something very unexpected happened. A $200 dollar clue that seemed to be quite easy stumped the trio of contestants:

“Matthew 6:9 says, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven,’ This ‘be they name.’”

“Hallowed be Thy name” might be one of the most famous four words in the Bible. I told Ramona I was very surprised that none of the three players knew it. A few days later, I would learn that many viewers were surprised…and outraged. Here are just a few of the headlines I found:

NBC News
‘Jeopardy’ fans reel as ‘Lord’s Prayer’ question goes unanswered.

‘Jeopardy!’ Players’ Religion Fail Gets Holy Hell From Viewers.

New York Post
‘Heathen’ ‘Jeopardy!’ contestants blasted by fans for missing obvious Bible answer.

 Here’s one example of the backlash on Twitter:

“Three Jeopardy contestants did not know the first line of the ‘Lord’s Prayer!’ Sad. Our Father, who art in heaven, ____ be thy name. They didn’t know the answer: ‘Hallowed. Get God back into your lives and homes, America.”

There was a lot more like that. The common theme in the reaction was judgmentalism. Viewers were either judging the contestants for not knowing the answer, or judging Jeopardy producers for choosing contestants that didn’t know a common phrase from the Bible. That reaction made me wonder if all those critics truly understand what Jesus was meant when He said: “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”

As Michael Wilkins writes in the NIV Application Commentary:

“Jesus gives guidelines for the way in which his people should conduct their regular prayer life. It is a model for them. But he doesn’t necessitate verbatim repetition of these words because frequent repetitive use may lead to the sin of formalism that he here condemns.”

In other words, what we call “The Lord’s Prayer,” is offered as a template for all prayer. Jesus is listing the elements that God desires to be in all our prayers. Prayer shouldn’t be ritualistic. It should be personal, a conversation between God and you. Jesus was condemning the formalism of Jewish prayer of the day. So, it’s unlikely He was offering us these words to recite verbatim. Rather, He was teaching us the themes that please God when we pray. The first is to honor our common Father in whatever words we use to open prayer.

Believers taking to social media to berate three people they don’t know for not knowing the words to a prayer that many recite by rote (although, as I said, I too was quite surprised none knew it) only proves Jesus’ point for Him.

It’s far more important that we as believers understand what Jesus was trying to tell us in Matthew 6:9 than it is for us to criticize others who can’t recite it by memory. I’m an avid “Jeopardy” watcher. It seems to me that they are asking more biblically-based questions these days than in the past. Rather than judge contestants who fail at those questions, perhaps our first thought should be to praise God that a show with an international platform is drawing attention to His Word.

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