This past Sunday the 50th Super Bowl, a game held between the Panthers and the Broncos, went down in the history books. It proved to be an exciting game overall. Peyton Manning (and the Broncos’ defense) led his team to victory as he claimed his second Super Bowl victory out of his four attempts. Immediately following the final play of the game, the reporters raced to capture the winning moment with the star quarterback who many anticipated would announce his retirement – perhaps beneath the ticker tape.
While Manning didn’t announce his retirement on the field, he did make a couple of statements that caused a great deal of controversy. Both statements were in direct violation of the NFL procedures since NFL players are not to endorse alcohol companies, but nevertheless, it made for added fireworks. It all started in response to a question from reporter Tracy Wolfson, where she asked, “So, Peyton, is this your final game for your career?” Manning said the following:
You know, I’ll take some time to reflect. I’ve got a couple of priorities. First, I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy. I promise you that….So, I’m going to take care of those things first, and um, I’ve definitely got to say a little prayer and thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity, I’m just very grateful.
After the game, many people questioned Manning’s intentions as he clearly broke the NFL procedures. Many people within the conservative evangelical circles where I typically live and interact were up in the air about the fact that Peyton Manning missed an opportunity to shine by promoting a beer company. Sure, I get it. I remember those players saying something about Disney World when I was a boy, so to hear him mention Budweiser was a surprise to say the least. No matter what your opinion about beer happens to be, I think most people are missing the real controversy in Manning’s post-game interview. God is not the man upstairs. The next morning, after winning the Super Bowl, Manning was interviewed on the Today Show. While on camera, he did it again. He talked about needing to pray to the big man upstairs.
I have no idea where Peyton Manning stands with the Lord. I know that Manning is good for the NFL and a class act off of the field. However, he fumbled in a big way as he referenced God as the man upstairs. When we reference God, we should consider the fact that He has a name. To make general references to God is offensive to Him, not to mention, completely inaccurate. This is a common practice within our culture. It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to God as their homeboy, the great architect of the universe, big guy in the sky, or the man upstairs.
When Moses was commissioned by God to go lead His people out of Egypt, he was overcome with fear. It was in that scene that God provided Moses with a reference to His name that had not been revealed to anyone prior to him.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations (Exodus 3:13-15).
Although a bit confusing to our language, the reference to I AM is intended to reveal the personal name of God. “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be” this is often known as the tetragrammaton or the revealed name of God. This name reveals His character. It represents the whole being of God. God’s name reveals His Holiness – He is distinct from the entire realm of creation. God’s name reveals sovereignty – He rules and reigns over the entire universe.
Peyton Manning, like many others, relegated God down to an aged old grandfather in the sky as opposed to the stunning, majestic, and holy God of all creation. When we consider that scribes would go to great lengths to protect the sacred name of God when copying the manuscripts of the Bible, it should cause us to cringe when we hear people in our pop culture throw references of God around so casually or flippantly. Consider the words of the Psalmist:
- Psalm 8:1 – O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
- Psalm 106:8 – Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.
- Psalm 111:9 – He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!
People in our culture refuse to recognize God and pretend that He doesn’t exist – much like Pharaoh did when confronted by Moses (Exodus 5:2). Therefore, it’s our duty to use every platform and every microphone to make our God known. Unfortunately, Manning did the opposite. Instead of pointing people to the true and living God, he pointed to an inaccurate and unfit image of God. R.C. Sproul writes the following:
When we fail to observe the third commandment, when we fail to honor God as God, and use His name as a curse word, or in a flippant, careless manner, we fail to fulfill this first petition (of the Lord’s Prayer to “hallow” God’s name). Perhaps nothing is more commonplace in our culture than the expression that comes from people’s lips on many occasions, when they say simply, “Oh, my God.” This careless reference to God indicates how far removed our culture is from fulfilling the petition of the Lord’s Prayer. It should be a priority for the church and for every individual Christian to make sure that the way in which we speak of God is a way that communicates respect, awe, adoration, and reverence. How we use the name of God reveals more clearly than any creed we ever confess our deepest attitudes towards the God of the sacred name. 
Manning finished his NFL career by winning Super Bowl 50 with a 24-10 victory over the Panthers. He likewise won his 200th NFL game. Manning will walk off of the field as a player with many accolades and records for other players to strive for. However, at the conclusion of his final game, he got the name of his favorite beer correct, but he completely missed it when it came to his reference of God. Although our culture will continue to misuse God’s name in text messages (OM*) and with blasphemous references to God’s name in movies and songs, we as God’s children must labor to uphold the sacredness of God’s name – for He is holy.
Exodus 20:7 – You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
- R. C. Sproul, “Our Father” Tabletalk magazine, June 2007.