Running With Castles and Bishops: Would You Sacrifice Your Standards for Worldly Gain?

Today’s guest post is from Tim Fall. Enjoy!

Like a good chess player he [Satan] is always trying to maneuver you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop. (C.S. Lewis)

​I’ve been watching the Olympics and that means watching track and field. Olympic runners need no explanation of Paul’s illustrations in 1 Corinthians 9:24 – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” – and Galatians 5:7 – “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” Sometimes races take an odd turn, though.

I read an article recently about a high school runner who was at the state finals in Ohio. Meghan Vogel had already won the 1600 meter race and earned a state title, but her true victory (in my opinion anyway) came later in the 3200 meter event. Running dead last, Meghan saw Arden McMath stumble and go down only a few meters from the finish line.

“I was kind of blacking out,” McMath told the Daily News. “I wasn’t too aware of my surroundings. I was just trying to keep going. When my body gave out, she was there. It was amazing.”

“She was there.” Arden went down and Meghan, even though she only had 20 feet to go herself, stopped for the exhausted girl and helped her get up, put one foot in front of the other and cross the finish line. (If you can watch the video embedded in the link above without choking up, you’re made of stronger stuff than I). She did this at some peril to herself as well. Intentionally touching another runner is an automatic disqualification. Meghan propped Arden in front of her as they crossed the line with Meghan coming in last place. The officials called no foul.

Christians run races too in a sense. That’s why Paul’s illustrations work so well, because we can all relate to the idea of being in something like a 3200 meter race. The life we live in Christ is for the long haul. That’s why C.S. Lewis’s chess analogy works too. Chess is a game of strategy, much like a long distance race. Where Paul talks about someone cutting in on another runner, Lewis talks of maneuverings and strategies that force us into making a choice. And what a choice it is.

Lewis used two pieces in his illustration, the Castle and the Bishop, that I think are particularly significant. Castles are strongholds of secular power, built to protect and maintain that power. Bishops represent faith handed down through centuries, generation upon generation. On the chessboard, Castles are more powerful than Bishops and when faced with a choice a player would most often sacrifice a Bishop in order to save the more powerful Castle.

Satan would like to do the same to us. As Lewis puts it, Satan wants us in positions where we will sacrifice Bishops to save Castles. Satan wants us to sacrifice matters of faith in order to save our worldly achievements or possessions.

Meghan Vogel was given the opportunity to pursue a worldly achievement or an achievement of higher worth. She could have sacrificed her integrity (her Bishop) in order to save herself from coming in last (a Castle of sorts, athletic achievement).

Believers in Christ should take note. Paul’s illustration and Lewis’s analogy were played out right there in front of us in real life. When I come to such a choice, I hope I don’t sacrifice my Bishop merely to save my Castle.

Questions: When have you faced a choice like this? How did it go?

Biography: Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids (one in college and one just graduated, woo-hoo!) his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. Tim guest posts on other peoples’ blogs, but is too lazy to get a blog of his own.

9 Responses to Running With Castles and Bishops: Would You Sacrifice Your Standards for Worldly Gain?

  1. Tim August 13, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Jen, thanks so much for letting me have some space here today!


  2. Marla Taviano August 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Small world, Ms. Jenny Rae! I know you didn’t write the post, but Meghan’s mama (also her coach) was my track coach in high school too. I remember when Meghan was born. Our little hometown is so proud of them both. So much character, on and off the track.

    • Tim August 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      Marla, how wonderful for you to know such a great family! I really appreciated seeing everyone in the video, how they interacted with each other and supported one another.


  3. Lesley August 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Tim, thanks for such an easy-to-read piece with a huge takeaway. We never know when we’ll be asked to sacrifice our standards for worldly gain. It will likely happen again, and again, and again in believer’s lives. I appreciate the reminder to be on guard and to keep choosing Jesus. He hasn’t failed me yet! 😉

    • Tim August 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

      “to keep choosing Jesus”

      Well put, Lesley, that’s precisely it! Choosing to keep our eyes always on him as we run the race set before us, as the author of Hebrews puts it at 12:1-2.


  4. Michelle Van Loon August 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

    What is especially moving about Vogel’s decision is the fact that it was made in a split second. She didn’t have time to create a pro/con list. She responded in that crisis moment out of who she really was.

    May we each be able to pull a Vogel when it counts most. :)

    • Tim August 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      I’ve just added “pull a Vogel” to my lexicon, Michelle! Split second decisions to do the right thing!


  5. Victoria / Justice Pirate August 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Wow. that’s an incredible story. I saw a picture for this situation with the runners but I didn’t research the story behind it (kinda like when Christians believe in God but don’t search His word at all for truth). Either way, I really enjoyed your article. I don’t know if I have done much sacrificing at all.

    • Tim August 30, 2012 at 8:57 am #

      Victoria, I think one person’s sacrifice is another person’s investment. You are investing mightily into your family and your 3 blogs. I think your boys will reap the benefit of all you’ve done for them, and yes some of what you’ve done is a sacrifice pleasing to God even if you think it’s more like merely loving your kids. Sacrifice as joy? What a concept!


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