“PUT A RING ON IT…”

So it’s Super Bowl Weekend, Super Bowl LI (what??), for those who are keeping track [note to the NFL…I would have thought when last year’s game was Super Bowl L..(or “50” for those of us who were born after the fall of the Roman Empire)..it might be a wake-up call that using the actual number, going forward, would be much better than Roman numerals…but NOOOO!!! 

Anyway, as always, a topic of conversation leading up to any Super Bowl, are the gigundous rings the winners get…and how many rings this player has or that coach has. Needless to say, rings have become a big deal in our “Hey, look at me!!” society for a number of reasons. One of them, nowadays, being sports championships. Why is that, do you think?

Of course, if you ask people under thirty-five what the significance of a ring is, they may point to Beyonce’s hit song, ‘Single Ladies’, as the “new standard” for what rings mean in the 21st century. You know the song, “If you liked it, you should’ve put a ring on it.” Now I am not totally sure I know what that means, exactly. But, I’m pretty sure it’s somewhat  “outside the norm” of what wedding rings have signified for many generations. 

“Earth to Bob..looks like you have wandered ‘off the reservation’ a bit here..that might be for a different post, all together.” Right, sorry about that. Let’s see, now where were we?

Oh yeah, I remember, so rings have been around for thousands of years, used by kings and other people in authority as sort of a signature or seal bearing their unique insignia or coat of arms to be used to make a document official, much like we do today with the stamp of a notary public. These types of rings were called “signet rings”. A dropping of wax would be used to seal an envelope and the king would use his ring to make an impression in the wax, thus making it officially from him. If the seal was broken, they knew it had been tampered with. Pretty cool…..so simple, yet so effective.

In the Bible, Zerubbabel was singled out by God, chosen to be “like a signet ring”, which I would suggest probably means that Zerubbabel would be used to declare His authority, or to show others that God approves of him, much like a king’s seal on an envelope carries a lot of weight. I just love the idea of a king wearing a ring bearing his personal insignia and simply by making an impression of it in wax to seal an envelope, it makes it official. They did such cool stuff back then, in the absence of modern technologies like passwords, fingerprints and retina scans. In fact, I am a bit envious of their simplicity, I must say.

On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” [Haggai 2:23 ESV]

Believe it or not, the more modern and more recognized use of rings, “wedding rings”, has only been around for about a thousand years (not that long, compared to signet rings) as they were first used by the Catholic Church around the 9th century. And there really is no evidence in the Bible that rings were meant to be exchanged at weddings and worn as an outward expression of one’s love and devotion for their spouse. I believe, originally, the man giving a woman a ring as part of a wedding ceremony, was meant to be somewhat like a signet ring, in that the man was “making it official” through the giving of the ring and the woman was acknowledging the acceptance of his proposal through the wearing of the ring for all to see. 

This was, of course, before the diamond sellers got involved and decided it would be great to sell two rings instead of one (or three…if you count the engagement ring) and that the cost of a diamond ring for an engagement gift should equal two months salary (I always loved that one. I had intended to spend three months worth..but since they said only two…I settled…lol). 

The following explanation of the origin and use of rings, for marital purposes, is a great one, I think:

The wedding or marriage ring came into use in Christian ceremonies in the 9th century AD. The custom of wearing the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand is based upon a romantic, although unscientific, Greek fable that the artery from that finger flows directly to the heart. However and whenever the custom of the wedding band developed, it is seen today as a symbol of an unending commitment to the marriage relationship. As such, it certainly has a biblical basis in that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment (Romans 7:2). This is not to say that wearing a wedding ring is a requirement for married Christians. But wedding rings are a beautiful reminder of the marriage covenant and, by extension, the covenant of Christ with His bride—the redeemed for whom He died. (from gotquestions.org)

Pretty interesting, is it not? And I would enthusiastically agree with the good folks at gotquestions.org (I use them as a reference source often) that while there is no biblical endorsement of this tradition, the symbolism of the two rings declaring the oneness and confirming the committments expressed in the wedding vows, which are meant to be in effect “for as long as they both shall live”…it’s a keeper!!!

But the central point I wanted to make here, once again, was to show how even in the secular world, we often adopt traditions that originally were either biblical, or at least religious in nature to some degree, and then we put secular spins on them, often discarding the original intent like an old, worn out pair of shoes, for the latest pair of signature brand celebrity footwear. And this seems to be the case with championship rings in sports in this modern era, as well. They are very much “in fashion” these days, are they not?  You see, just as young ladies spend a great deal of time dreaming of the right man coming along and asking them to marry them, athletes nowadays are “all about that ring”, too. They even jump from team to team, thanks to free agency, mostly to improve their chances of getting a ring and the fortunes that come with it. Again, I am not sure that was what they had in mind, back when they started doing it.

The idea of giving out rings to championship sports teams is really only about a hundred years old, as the first World Series rings were given to the players of the New York Giants in 1922, and it wasn’t until the early 1930s, that it became a yearly tradition. It was thought to be a good way for the players to have something to commemorate their own personal accomplishments, since the trophy was given as a team award. On the other side of the coin, maybe there was a downside, as it could be pointed to as the beginning of players focusing on personal achievement over team triumph (don’t get me started….that is why I enjoy hockey so much…it’s all about the Stanley Cup).

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with striving to win, whether in your work, your marriage or life, in general. In fact, I believe it is a godly principle and I think the Apostle Paul may have said it best:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” [1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV]

God created us in His image, you see, and part of who God is…is the desire to be victorious, to overcome opposition and defeat our enemies. The desire to “pursue excellence” in the things we do…or “to win” is nothing to be ashamed of, we are made that way. 

We just have to be careful not to forget WHO blessed us with our talents and abilities in the first place.

We did not create ourselves, so we should not be too quick to take all the credit.

ENJOY THE GAME (and the commercials, of course)!!!

MAY THE BEST TEAM WIN!!!!!

BOB PALUMBO

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