Almost two weeks ago, Tim Challies wrote in his blog here, giving a personal telling of his experience and opinions on playing video games. I highly recommend reading it, but I provide the following key takeaways:
- Playing video games is not inherently good or bad. This is true of all sources of entertainment – movies, television, sports, literature, etc.
- Christians can in good conscience enjoy the entertainment of video games, and should do so if it is their cup of tea and if it does not step on higher priorities (family, work, ministry, etc). This of course assumes that the player is wise in choosing which video games to partake. Just like any other source of entertainment, video games have their smutty options and their wholesome options.
- Play games with others! One aspect in which a Redeemed individual can make use of the time spent in video games is by enjoying it with others – family, friends, and fellow believers.
I interject on Challies’ behalf and add that another respectable use of being a part of the gaming community is to serve as a light to a lost world. If my experience in the gaming world has taught me anything, it is that it is desperately in need of the Gospel. More on that in a future blog post.
The intent of this post is not to dispute what Challies said, but rather add to it from my own perspective. While he certainly notes the threat of video games to usurp the biblical priority chain, it is my opinion, that the truth of Challies article is a stumbling block to believers when not more strenuously juxtaposed with the dangerous pitfall that it presents. My personal experience playing video games as evidence, Christians can fool themselves into continued servitude to idols by repetitiously reciting that “there’s nothing wrong with playing video games”. In order to expose the great evil that can come from video games, I give a personal recounting of my history with them followed by an exhortation from scripture to flee the time-wasting idols of our life.
I got my first video game console (a Gamecube, for those interested) when I was about 11 or 12 years old. It made me very happy to not only have what my friends had, but also to enjoy the addicting fun that video games offer. In my college years I worked several part time jobs, but the vast time spent on school and work did not stop me from feeding my gaming addiction further. I added more and more games to my collection and spent countless more hours playing them. The type of games I have enjoyed the most are those that require a minimum of 40 hours to complete and upwards of 120 hours to finish all the side stories and collect all the collectibles.
Now a 25 year old man, with God knows how many hours spent on video games, I finally have put them aside. Since I became a believer at age 18, there were several times I recall where I genuinely wanted to get rid of all of my games. However, each of those times I talked myself out of it. This is mostly because it was an idol deeply ingrained in my heart, but what didn’t help was repeating to myself the
excuse truth that video games aren’t inherently evil. I am not the only one who would rationalize in such a way – in a follow up post on Challies’ blog (here) he shared a few comments he received from readers from the aforementioned post. One commenter noted that if he hadn’t already severed his ties to the video game idol, he too would have rationalized his video game playing with the truth that video games aren’t inherently bad and can be enjoyed in a sinless way.
For me, such a drastic measure was needed. I had to get rid of my video game paraphernalia. I am not proud to admit, but I have so much as neglected reading God’s word and prayer, going to church, as well as distracting myself at work with thoughts about video games, all because my life was consumed by the entertainment that video games gave me. And it wasn’t just playing video games – it was constantly thinking about them, reading about them, watching other people play them, involvement in competitive e-Sports – I was consumed with playing video games.
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NASB) says “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil”. Two quick notes to hone in on to develop the key principle:
- The context of chapter 5 and the rest of the book of Ephesians is key to understanding verses 15-16. In light of the truth of the “mystery of Christ” (3:4) which Paul explains is “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”, Paul exhorts believers to now behave in a new way. Starting in 4:1, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. So the motivation for the directives of 5:15-16 is to align our walk with the good news of the gospel. The immediate context in 6-14 has Paul contrasting the Light of the believers in the Lord that should not mingle with the darkness of the world, but rather expose it and preach the gospel (13-14).
- The Greek phrase behind “making the most of your time” is also found in Colossians 4:5, there translated in the NASB as “making the most of the opportunity”. The key understanding here to glean is that Paul is urging his readers to literally redeem the time, because “the days are evil”. This phrase doesn’t mean that time is an object of moral value, but rather relaying the simple truth that there are pressing matters to attend to, particularly the preaching of the gospel to the world through word and action, and any activities that take precedent in prioritization to the ministry of the gospel are evil.
If I can summarize this way, the application we can lift here from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is that believers cannot allow activities of the world to be a higher priority than the ministry of the gospel. This applies to more than just video games. Millennials like me have numerous venues to waste time. What this doesn’t mean is that healthy doses of entertainment are not okay to ingest. What this does mean is that if you, like me, have neglected one or more duties of the Christian life for the sake of an entertainment outlet, then you probably don’t have the right priorities.
It is my prayer that the reader would examine their own lives and ensure there aren’t any idols precluding their gospel ministry. I also pray that a biblical view of video games (and entertainment as a whole) would be acquired by my fellow believers.
I now cherish the time I have bought myself by jettisoning the video game idol. I have been extremely blessed by the extra time to read the Word and worship and pray by myself. I also am working to be more involved in the lives of those at my church – administering the gospel in the way I have been gifted to do so. This also means more time to write on my blog, which I also plan to do, hopefully for the reader’s benefit and for God’s glory.