top of page

The Game of Life

Back in the day, before we had mobile phones to captivate our attention, my friends and I would holiday at the beach each summer. We’d swim and fish and body surf and hang out together. In the evenings we’d often play board games, one of which was called the "Game of Life." You can still buy it. The version I remember had players represented by pink or blue pegs travelling over the board in cars and accumulating additional pegs for spouses and children, as well as earning money and paying for education, taxes etc along the way. Once you reached the "Day of Reckoning" you could retire to "Millionaire Acres" or risk everything to become a "Millionaire Tycoon;" but if you lost you went to the "Poor Farm." The modern version includes rewards for good works such as helping homeless and recycling but there’s still a large element of chance. The intent of the game is to have the most assets at the end of the game.

Is that really the way life works? Is it about accumulating assets in order to win at the end? Is the meaning of life really about the biggest achievements, the most toys, the greatest popularity? For millions of people on earth, life is a precarious existence. It’s about survival from one day to the next. There will be no “chance” of retiring to Millionaire Acres. To have a fraction of what people in the affluent West enjoy would be miraculous. Yet in countries where clean water, fresh fruit and vegetables, clean beds, meat every day and access to health care are taken for granted, we find a great deal of discontent. It’s hard wired into human beings to want just that little bit more. I’d be content if I had... a slightly bigger house... a new car... a better job...

Advertising fuels competitiveness and discontent. We’re constantly enticed with newer and better versions of clothing, food, cosmetics, appliances, vehicles, electronic devices. We’re told we deserve them, we’ve earned them. (Rarely are we told how much the poor, the starving, the diseased, the displaced in other less affluent countries deserve such things!) What is the aim in life; to live well? What does living well mean? Food on the table, a happy family life? Worthwhile employment? A career? Wealth and power? Must others "lose" so that we can "win"? Should we set our sights on obtaining more and more, on servicing our desires? At the end of life, whenever that may be, when we look back over our lives, what will bring us satisfaction? Having more than our parents did? Having more than our friends and neighbours?

Would our ambitions change if we knew, absolutely, that we would die in a week’s time? Probably, but the thing is, the day will most definitely come for each of us when we do only have a week left! Every single one of us will die one day, and as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you.

One of the kings of ancient Israel started thinking about that. He’s known only as the Teacher, and the book he wrote is Ecclesiastes. He observed that ultimately everything in this material life is emptiness, "a chasing after wind." There’s nothing really new under the sun. We play the Game of Life, we toil and then we die and leave everything we have to someone else, our memory all but forgotten. This man had tremendous privilege; he was wise and educated, he pursued many hobbies and interests and spared himself no pleasure. He achieved great things, left monuments to himself. At the end of the day, despite all his greatness, his destiny was the same as any poor fool’s. It’s well worth the time to read the short book of Ecclesiastes (use a modern translation). At first you might think it’s a very negative book because the Teacher concludes that everything in the Game of Life is pointless. Or does he? Along the way he perceives good in the simple pleasures of life, which are gifts from God. Ultimately, all things are in God’s hands and there is a season for every activity. Ultimately, it is better to be wise than foolish, and this life is not all there is. God is in control and the Game is not over yet, even if the wicked seem to have won. Ultimately, we can enjoy the life God has given us, but must keep it in perspective; this life is not all there is. If this life is unpleasant, even terrible, we can be assured that in the context of eternity those who love and follow God will not miss out. What we do in this life, the sort of person we are, and our priorities, particularly toward God, count tremendously. The Teacher concludes:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

This is the true Game of Life; our standing before God determines who ultimately wins or loses, in eternity. Everyone of us will be called to account for our life, not what name we have made for ourselves, or how much wealth and goods we have accumulated. Jesus told a parable about the folly of assuming that the one with the most wealth wins the Game of Life.

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:15–21)

The rich man’s problem was not that he was blessed with a good harvest; that was a blessing from God (even though he failed to recognise that). His problem was that he considered only how he might accumulate it for himself. He thought he had won the Game of Life, made it to Millionaire Acres, yet he didn’t realise that he was actually completely impoverished. For all his worldly goods could not save him from death, nor would they purchase any bargaining power when he went to meet his Maker. Jesus warned that on the day of judgement, a person’s worth would be assessed according to what they had done, not for themselves, but for others (Matthew 25:31–46). Not because we can earn our way into God’s Kingdom, but because the true measure of a person is their grateful response to what God has done for them. God freely offers to us salvation, eternal life because of the work of Christ who destroyed sin and reconciled us to God. This is the real meaning of life; God made us to be in eternal relationship with him, not waste our time accumulating goods on this earth.

The counter-cultural gospel warns that true contentment does not consist in the accumulation of more things, or “treasure on earth.” True treasure lies in things that are eternal, that never perish and that we can, in fact, “take with us.”

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,” warned Jesus; “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).

What is this treasure in heaven? Jesus also called it food that eternally satisfies. “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man (Jesus) will give to you” (John 6:27) and water that forever quenches thirst; “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I (Jesus) will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). The treasure, food and drink that Jesus speaks of are Jesus himself. "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Relationship with Jesus fulfills our deepest needs and desires. We were made for relationship with God, we were made for eternal life, so much more than life in this world which ultimately can never satisfy. This is a treasure that we can take with us, that endures throughout eternity. It is the amazing gift of a gracious God who made us for so much more than the follies of a game centred solely on this life. Without God it doesn’t matter how much wealth and how many earthly goods we accumulate or how much fame or power we have. All these things will crumble to dust. Without God we are already dead, just marking time amongst all our trinkets until we join them in the dust and the world turns on without us.

Jesus warned people who thought they had the Game of Life all wrapped up; “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (Revelation 3:17–18). Like the rich fool, they were trusting in their “barns,” in the material things they had stored up, instead of the true riches of Christ. They were dead, not alive; poor, not rich. The garments, food, drink and riches which Christ provides have already been purchased by him, we need only accept them. Those who have accepted God’s grace already possess eternal life; the life of true worth, that never ends, in which we rejoice in the true riches and can be who we were truly made to be.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4–10)

This is the true meaning of life. Choose life.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page