There’s nothing wrong with competitive fun, but Christians must keep it in perspective. No matter what you’re playing, the truth is it’s just a game.
You probably would have felt unsettled at the very least, perhaps deathly afraid even, to witness my past pattern of behavior after losing or feeling cheated in any kind of game. Ah yes, the competitive spirit is perfectly natural and good, but so easily an across-the-board liability. It was a liability for me during the time that I wasn’t even trying to walk with the Lord. Specifically, I regularly had my hands on a controller, along with an unhealthy and unbiblical appetite to dominate opponents (actual people) in virtual environments. I’m most grateful that I’ll never meet all the poor saps I crushed, and those I responded to with the classic “rage quit,” because I wasn’t doing or saying anything to point them to Christ (consider Matt 5:14-16).
The above describes my college days, and even some time beyond. A handful of years later, God has completely changed my thinking. Granted I still enjoy victory like any other human being, but labels like Winner, The Best, Champion, or 1st Place are no longer distinctions I prize. I’m not here to make sure other gamers fall below me on some meaningless leaderboard.
Does it occur to us that craving the highest score or an undefeated athletic record, landing the most kills on a virtual battlefield, crossing the finish line first in a race…whatever would constitute victory in your case, is altogether hollow? Let’s come to terms with the reality that playing a game, whether on a big screen, tabletop, or grassy plot, should be more about ministry and enjoying interaction with the people God has placed around you for said activity than being the one who ultimately comes out on top.
Throwing a hissy-fit if your path to the goal is hindered, or heaven forbid you lose in the end, exposes a terrible priority in the heart. A make-believe crown, or others’ recognition of your supremacy, does not bring joy and satisfaction. It isn’t what life is about by a long-shot. Yet it seems that so many professing believers are caught up in this worldliness. We know why unbelievers crave such reward: their hope is anchored in that which is no anchor — a world that is passing away. So of course such people are constantly after being known as the best. Believers know better, yet tend to act contrary to the truth (consider Luke 6:24, Matt 6:5, Matt 7:24-27, I John 2:15-17).
What does God say about this? Does He slap us on the wrist for winning, let alone having the desire to win? No, but He makes clear the victory which deserves our undivided attention. In the New Testament, the idea of victory is always tied directly to how Jesus Christ reigns victoriously over sin and death on our behalf (consider I John 5:4, John 16:33). God grants us the same victory through repentance and faith in Christ’s name. Thus there should be a stark contrast between unbelievers and God’s children. The unregenerate usually compete in the games of this fallen world seeking a temporarily-satisfying massage to their egos, whereas Jesus Christ has conquered this world that overflows with such broken cisterns…to be our everlasting Satisfaction.
Even when Paul discusses the victory of an athlete in I Corinthians 9, he is emphasizing the far more important and eternally-valuable crown that is imperishable. The apostle knew a thing or two about sports, but I believe he couldn’t have cared less about whatever it would have meant to win.
The whole premise of this is to encourage you to think upon the very wise phrase, it’s just a game. By all means enjoy games, but take care to assess your attitude about them. If it’s your tendency to want to crush the opposition and be known as the best of the best, ponder the fact that God doesn’t care who wins or loses. If anything, He cares that all winners and losers represent His character. So, do you swell with pride at the idea of the walls around you being plastered with plaques, trophies, and medals bearing your name? Do you obsess over your gaming statistics, checking to make sure no one is threatening your precious position? Again, having fun isn’t wrong, but I urge you to take heed that you’re not chasing after meaningless crowns. The kingdom of self doesn’t exist for the follower of Jesus Christ; it can’t. Rather, seek His kingdom first, and His rewards!