You can either play by the rules of the Game of Life or you can take a detour to paradise.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
I never really liked the Game Of Life.
For me, winning at this Milton Bradley board game was too dependent upon the random spin of a wheel. I prefer diversions where strategy directs the outcome. But, I must admit there was something always alluring about a game where players could see their entire lifetime unfold before their eyes. Education. Career. Family. Wealth. Success or failure determined in a little over an hour.
Recently, my kids convinced Dad to give the Game of Life another whirl. My initial disappointment was that in the 30 years since I last played the game, they still hadn’t figured a way to keep the wheel from flying off its mount. Just like the old days, it would take flight, taking down screaming pink and blue people as they tumbled from plastic minivans.
But recurring engineering flaws wasn’t what was most depressing. I was heartbroken to realize the game’s lowest salary possible was disturbingly close to the one I’ve been able to squeeze out of my small business the past few years during this challenging economy.
Then there was the reminder of homes and mortgages, an unpleasant thought for a family living in a collapsed real estate market where two thirds of our residents are underwater with their home equity. So much for the American Dream.
And winning at this board game? After each of us have labored to acquire impressive houses, thick stock portfolios and a pile of cash in the bank, we all unceremoniously end up back where we started–packed away in a cardboard box.
In the Bible, King Solomon described this empty pursuit of the world’s earthly virtues as “Vanity” and as a “Chasing of The Wind.”
The Game of Life reminds me of my impression after watching a few episodes of the “Apprentice” featuring developer Donald Trump. With no mention of his involvement in bankruptcies, we vicariously enjoy the high life with “the Don.” We watch him interact with celebrities and beautiful people as he’s whisked away in helicopters and limousines to high rise apartments, five star restaurants, shoreline casinos and exclusive country clubs. The premise of the show is if you happen to be talented and can work incredibly hard, you too can have a shot being just like “the Don.”
Really? Is this where it all leads? To me it all kind of sounds like “Vanity” and a “Chasing of the Wind.”
The Bible teaches us to look at things from an eternal perspective. That is, to see our lives from God’s vantage point. We’re really here on earth for just a blink of an eye. If we compare our time here with eternity in Heaven, our lives are merely a grain of sand on the beach.
From this eternal perspective (or kingdom perspective) the laws of what really matter completely change. In God’s economy “things” on earth don’t have a lot of value but “relationships” do.
God isn’t concerned about how much we accumulate. He cares about with how generous we are with what we are given. What are we doing with the talents, gifts and people we’ve been blessed with in our lives? Are we committed to building our own empire or His Kingdom?
With this approach in mind, let’s contrast the Game of Life with a Life of Faith.
The Game of Life vs. A Life of Faith
This is where the plastic wheels meet the road. You can either play by the rules of the Game of Life or you can take a detour to paradise. The choice is whether you want to lift yourself up from your bootstraps and follow Frank Sinatra’s lead of “Doing It My Way” or choosing a life of faith and dependency in Jesus Christ. When you choose God’s way there’s only one narrow road to choose from, but it will lead you to true victory.
Insurance vs. Assurance
We all know there is no insurance in life. We are not in control. That doesn’t mean that getting home or car insurance isn’t a wise choice for protecting our earth bound assets. It’s just that most of us have learned through experience there is too much small print and too many disclaimers when it comes to relying on the world’s guarantees. But with a faith decision we can have “Assurance” which is a 100% promise of eternal life.
Big House vs. Mansion In Heaven
Having a home of our own can be a tremendous blessing and it can be a wonderful place to raise a family. But home ownership doesn’t define us as being successful in God’s eyes. We are actually taught that we are strangers in a strange land–just passing through. Our ultimate destination is Heaven where He is preparing for each of us a mansion for all eternity.
Investing Money vs. Investing In Others
The recent economic collapse of 2008 was a necessary reminder about the dangers of putting our faith in money. Fortunes were lost overnight, and it wasn’t surprising that it drove many people back to relying on God instead of personal wealth. God’s love never changes. He is the true Rock. Instead, we are called to invest in the lives of others. By raising our children in a Godly manner and by building our faith into others, we are storing our treasures in Heaven where neither moth nor rust can destroy.
Retirement vs. Finishing Well
In the Game of Life, a comfortable retirement is that pot at the end of the rainbow. Many strive for a comfortable pension and a life of endless golf courses and cruises. However; this idea of retirement is not one you’ll find in the Bible. The Apostle Paul teaches us to run the race to the finish. What a waste to spend the last decades of our lives out to pasture. This is the ripest time for ministry, when our wisdom and experiences can be put to greatest use in mentoring and leading others.
Life Achievements vs. Jewels In Your Crown
In the Game of Life, you pursue success by acquiring Life Tiles. These are personal accomplishments, like climbing Mt. Everest or getting your name on a museum wing or winning the Noble Peace Prize. In our lives, we can too easily drift from our core mission by being drawn to public do-goodery and the addiction of individual acclaim. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to do good in the world. To the contrary. It just means we do it for the right reasons and we give the credit to God. He teaches us it is good to seek favor from Him. For our efforts he promises to add jewels to our crown.
The Good Life
We are free to choose the Game of Life. We can devote our waking moments focusing on climbing ladders and filling our storehouses. But from an eternal perspective, this is a sad and empty pursuit.
The good life requires keeping a proper perspective and investing our time and energy on those things which truly matter. After all, this game of life was designed to be played by God’s rules, and each of us can choose to be a winner.
So. It’s your turn now. What’s your next move?