Whenever you find an
activity that is not directly mentioned in Scripture, it is necessary to find
the biblical principles that apply to the activity. It is important to identify
the appropriate principles because no activity is neutral before God. As Romans
14:23 says, "…whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." "Electronic
gaming" is one of those phrases that is missing from your concordance, but
it is surely a part of life to which the Bible applies.
As we have seen in previous posts, it is helpful to place any
activity (such as gaming) in the context of creation, the fall and redemption.
The process of biblical analysis would be to ask the following questions: How was the principle used before the fall?
How has sin distorted what could have been? How does the redemptive work of
Christ allow us to redeem that which was lost? Let's apply these questions to
gaming. Apart from responding to obvious, overt sin in a game, the principle
that most appropriately applies is the use of time. Thus, the dynamic we are
looking for in this situation is what role does faith play in redeeming our use
of time for God’s glory?
Let’s go back to Colossians 2 for a moment. Verse 8 warns
against being taken captive by the basic principles of this world. Therefore,
to develop a distinctly biblical principle regarding the use of time we will
have to go beyond what the world offers. This chapter is also helpful because
in verses 20-23 it identifies what some of the world’s principles and
Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why,
as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle!
Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use,
because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed
have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false
humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in
restraining sensual indulgence.
This is valuable insight. The world uses rules to solve
problems of behavior. So some of the world’s solutions to the problem of too much
time spent on gaming would involve rules and manipulation. Such rules—for
example, limiting the time that games are played, complaining about how bad the
games are, and saying that time could be better spent doing something else—are
actually steps on the road toward captivity. Notice in verse 23 that harsh,
strict rules lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. There is
perhaps no better description of the uncontrolled, obsessive time spent in
electronic gaming than the term sensual indulgence. But, as the text
says, even strict rules will not restrain these desires.
This message must not be missed. You cannot defeat the
power of the world by using the world’s tactics. That temptation is a huge
part of the enemy’s strategy. The enemy creates a problem – sensually alluring
games that inflame desires that cannot be satisfied. Then he provides you with
a solution – strict, pervasive rules – that he knows will not work. The result:
angry teenagers, frustrated parents, lost productivity and broken
relationships. That is what it means to be taken captive by the deceptive
principles of this world.
So what is the answer? For that we have to go back to verses
6&7 of Colossians 2:
So then, just as you
received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in
him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with
Christians are to live in the strength provided by faith. In
working this out with your gamer, you want him to know that you know what he
struggles with. He may respond that he doesn’t think he has any struggles
except not being allowed to play the game as much has he wants to. But you know
that internally he is not a happy camper. You know the games ultimately don’t
satisfy. All they do, in the words of Ephesians 4:17-19, is to provide a
continual drive to play again and again and again. The games never satisfy;
they only light the fires for more of the same.
Responding in faith means that you first acknowledge the
problem and its intensity. Then, the solution is not simply to stop playing the
games and to start doing schoolwork or yard work or cleaning. Rather, you want
to find ways in which your teenagers can accomplish important things for which
they are valued and appreciated. This is the problem with the large chunks of
unstructured time. You may be thinking, if he really wanted to be helpful he
would use the free time to do something useful. However, these silent wishes
are no substitute for leadership and loving direction. Your teenager may just
as likely be thinking that if there is
unstructured time he can do with it what he wants. In this vacuum he is likely
to listen to the loud, seductive call of folly. Again, each of you is disappointed
in the other.
To redeem the time, it is important to be able to do
something that actually matters. Help your teenager to see that the things he
does can actually make a difference. This may take some time and effort. It
means that you have to know your teenager and what he can do well. Christ has
made it possible for him to engage in work that is redemptive in nature, rather
than being self-pleasing. If your children have professed faith, encourage them
to a higher calling than just killing (literally) time. Time is redeemable. It
must be seen as a precious commodity. Boredom can come from not seeing the
value and potential of unstructured time.
If your children have
not professed faith, then do not be content with the status quo. Show them the
dynamic of the creation, fall, redemption reality. Show them that seeing
fallenness as the norm leads only to despair. Believing that the fall is normal
and unchangeable is the force behind the
existential, postmodern thought that dominates modern culture. Christianity
offers something far better. Christianity offers redemption from what we know
as "normal." Again, you have work to do to bring the challenges of
God to the situation at hand. However, you also have the promise of God’s help
and his power.
This is no small task. But it is the gospel. Faith in Jesus
Christ means that life is more than gaming. Life is knowing God as we embrace
doing God’s things. For parents, there is perhaps no greater task than showing
your children that this fallen world with its elaborate games is not all that
there is. To have the opportunity to point them to the real power found in the
gospel is cause for gratitude. Gratitude is often the forgotten component in
dealing with parenting problems. Colossians 2:7 says you should be overflowing
with thankfulness. If you are not, you are not presenting true gospel faith to
your kids, because you are not living it out yourself. Be thankful that right
now, in the midst of all of the struggles you have in life, you have the
opportunity to show those around you that there is more to life than a fallen
world. This is the power of the gospel that will reach the heart of your
As always, let me know your thoughts.