One would think there is nothing wrong with games and with the playing of them. Games are often used as a means of relaxation. Some use them as an escape mechanism where the stresses of life bare unbidden upon them. Others play games for sheer enjoyment. Often there is a fulfillment in winning a game because one is a “loser” in the realities of life. Some families are brought together by the anticipation of playing games. The advent of electronic media has shuffled games to the forefront in the lives of children and adults alike. One can observe people playing games at restaurants and other places which were once a place to visit with others sharing the glad times of family and life. This medium has also caused playing games to cross-state lines and some Christians forego more worthwhile activities to engage. I don’t know if there is any virtue in games unless it is in the fact that these keep people from things that are sinful. The down side of games may be that they ebb into moral and spiritual circles. Many games promote gambling and other sinful practices. If one fails to exercise caution the love of games and gaming will take precedence in life pushing one to make various situations a game resulting in sin. With that thought in mind allow me to suggest some games people play.
PREACHERS AND CHRISTIANS PLAY THE MONEY GAME
This game is not new by any stretch of the imagination. Obviously some were accusing the Apostle of “preaching for money,” prompting him to write, “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness:” (I Thes. 2:5). There have been many preachers who earned the designation of preaching for money. However, there are multitudes that have sacrificed to preach, in which all Christians should find an example to emulate. A brother in the presence of others declared, “I think preachers ought to work with their hands as Paul did!” I retorted, “there are many preachers that do work with their hands in order to care for their family while preaching at every opportunity. However, if preachers should hold a job like Paul, then is it not reasonable that those who work with their hand like Paul should also preach like Paul?” Like many other things some fail to accept that “what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.” Some people run off at the mouth before their brain is in gear. Some say, “if we support the preacher it will ruin him.” I say, the sooner he’s ruined the better, as then we’ll know what kind of man he really is. While there are some that are too lazy to work for a living and sponge off the church most preachers could be equally successful engaging in other occupations. It must be admitted that there are some preachers that cannot manage to get along on a dime when all that is needed is a nickel. Yet, when someone bundles all preachers in a sack and says they “preach for money” I take offense at it. What other occupation or work will one pursue if there is not some type of monetary consideration? Strange as it may sound to others, when a preacher obtains his groceries, the store expects money, when he fills his car up with gasoline (even to go preaching), the merchant demands money. I rejoice in old time preachers who received very little support. There are many things about a preacher’s needs that the average person has not justly taken into consideration. It is a shame that many GOOD preachers must leave the field because adequate support is lacking. To say “a certain preacher preaches for money” is no excuse for failing to support worthy men sufficiently. There is going to be a day of reckoning for those who play games on both sides of the ledger.
SOWING DISCORD TO GAIN FOLLOWERS FOR THEMSELVES
Readers of the New Testament are familiar with men forming “a party spirit” in the church of our Lord. These pages have again and again pointed to this sin as well as the opposite (endeavoring to keep unity,) being a virtue for the Christian. Yet, there seems to be ever-present evil men exalting themselves to the havoc of the church. Evil men seeking power, position and prominence playing games with the truth, the church and the souls of the gullible. How people can be so deceived over and over is beyond me as these people do their evil work. When their character is revealed should we not stay clear of them? “They that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom. 16:18). Simple does not mean a simpleton or ignoramus, it is one who is without guile or is unsuspecting. These present easy prey and fertile soil for the people who form a “party spirit.” Such is not a new thing under the sun. When Korah, Dathan and Abiram spoke against the leadership of Moses and Aaron the Lord heard it and opened up the earth to swallow them. The Pharisees and Scribes continually taunted Jesus as they worked to stalemate His work on earth. Even the disciples of Jesus could not resist the temptation to seek positions of greatness. They argued about this to the very last. The only way to quiet the subject was for Jesus to wash their feet exemplifying humility as a superior virtue. Those seeking to bind the Law of Moses on Gentile Converts proved to be a “thorn in the flesh” for Paul confronting him on every hand. Why has and does God allow evil workers to create discord and work mischief in the church? The answer is found in First Corinthians eleven at verse nineteen, “that they which are approved may be manifest.” So, it is a purifying process used by God to keep His people faithful. If our faith and loyalty to God is never tried how can we be in character what the Lord wishes? Moses and Aaron were approved of God, as was Jesus, Paul and those desisting to be drawn into a party within the church gained God’s approval. While seeking to destroy the unity of the church and ruining the reputation of good people for their own aggrandizement is playing a game. To foolish minded men the game will not be over until the appearing of the Lord Jesus.
PLAYING GAMES WITH FRIENDS, ENEMIES AND RELATIONSHIPS
There are those who move others about like pieces on a chessboard to accomplish the end they cherish or have in mind. The Bible is replete with such narratives for our learning and admonition. Add to this, experience and observation ought to lend some instruction, but alas, some think “it will be different this time’ refusing to benefit. The great and heroic judge of Israel whose strength bewildered the Philistines was betrayed into their hands by the woman he loved. These enemies of the Lord approached Delilah to discover and reveal to them the secret of Samson’s strength promising her a substantial reward. Three times she approached Samson to tell her the secret of his strength. Three times she followed his instruction and three times she said, “the Philistines are upon thee.” Three times his strength was not abated. But, Samson was a slow learner. Delilah then resorted to a weapon often used by some women saying unto him, “How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? Thou hast mocked me these three times, and has not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.” (Jud. 16:15). This was not a one-time event, rather, “she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death: That he told her all his heart.” (V 16-17). Playing this game Samson won the first three rounds but lost the last resulting in his being blinded, imprisoned and made a spectacle before the enemies of the Lord. He lost his strength—lost his eyesight—lost his freedom—lost his wife—lost his reason to live—lost his standing with God—lost his life. Delilah played the game of love and destroyed a good man. We later read of two Christians (another man and wife), that saw a need among disciples. Others to relieve the needy brought what they could and laid it before the Apostles to be distributed. Some that had property sold it and gave the money. These two also had some land and upon selling it brought the price of it and gave it to the Apostles however, unbeknown to others they kept a part of the money for themselves. Obviously they misrepresented the fact making it appear that all had been given since Peter said to the man, “Satan hath filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?.” (Acts 5:3). Well, that spirit did not pass away with these two. I have heard people say in regard to a good work or in laying by on the first day of the week, “I am giving all I can,” or “I am giving as I prospered,” which is a blatant and boldfaced lie! These two lost their life for this misdeed. Ananias and Sapphira lost their land—lost their money—lost their life and are forever branded as the first hypocrites in the church. They played the hypocrisies game and lost. We all know the villainy of Judas. I ask you to set aside the fact that Judas had seen the miracles of Jesus even to raising some from the dead—to set aside the fact that Jesus is the King of kings—to set aside for a moment the fact that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. These things are collectively or separately important and significant. These were proven often in the presence of Judas—he knew all of them to be true. Let’s think about another fact that we all can understand from the daily activities of our own life, Judas was Jesus’ friend. It is declared, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” (Ps. 41:9). This passage is referred to by Jesus applying it to Judas (Jn. 13:18). There are several things worthy of our consideration that enables us to understand Jesus’ feelings for Judas. Judas was His friend, one He felt comfortable in his presence, the word translate friend in this Psalm is also used to refer to the temperament of a man and his wife—they are comfortable in the presence of the other. Jesus did not have to be on guard but could relax when Judas was around. A familiar friend is one in whom one can rely on; to trust and have confidence in, one whom would “watch his back” so to speak. Not that Jesus had any secrets but we do and our familiar friends are those that we can reveal our deepest feelings, aspirations and desires. In whom I trusted is one that can be depended on in our absence as well as in our presence. We trust them to stand up for us in the face of our accusers and enemies. A trusted familiar friend is one we can rely on to keep all promises, vows and commitments. It however means a great deal more here as Judas was hand picked by the Lord and along with the others would have been appointed an ambassador to stand in His place presenting the saving Gospel to the world. Who did eat of my bread is one who has accepted our hospitality and with whom we share our bounty sometimes because it was needed when others would not help, sometimes for the sheer pleasure of being with this friend. It reflects intimacy that is not shared with people in general. Remember when Jesus ate the final Passover and took bread saying,” this is my body.” His bread then was far superior to normal bread at a common meal. Judas ate His bread with Christ. Hath lifted up his heel against me reminds me of a person who crushes a bug with the heel of his shoes. What a terrible feeling to learn that a trusted and loved friend turned his back and took occasion to crush us. Poor old Judas, when the truth of his foul deed hit him in the face the only thing left was for him was to return the blood money and in deep remorse hang himself. What good would it have done for him to say, “I am sorry?” He had let down his friend, he had joined with Jesus’ enemies, he had become a part of the treachery, he had set the wheels in motion, now the deed could not be undone. He had played the game and won when leading the captors out to take Jesus. No resistance was given, but he learned too late that it is easier to seek forgiveness from another than to forgive ones self. He had gained fame—his name will be forever known and remembered as the disciple who betrayed his familiar friend. He lost his money—lost his place as a disciple—lost his place as an Apostle—lost his life—and most of all had lost his familiar friend. Truth had dealt with him and had not gained his allegiance. Love was before him but it had not affected his heart. What a game he played and what games we play when we betray Jesus. How different sin looks before we engage than how it looks after we have
committed it. The desire and anticipated pleasure previous to the act is little consolation to the guilt received after disobedience. Turning our back on our familiar friend takes away He whom we need most. We need Jesus as our friend—because we need Him NOT because e needs us. He needs us.
DO YOU PLAY SUCH GAMES?
Are these a reflection of your activities in life? Have you manipulated people to gain advantage for your self? Perhaps you realize that you have done so unconsciously with no intention to use people. In either case the time to stop is now. The time to rectify the situation begins this moment. Playing games with people is not only unchristian, it is cruel. Do you know someone who plays games but you let it slide by without a word of caution, then resolve to reprove the person the next time for his benefit and yours. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (Js. 4:17). Oh, the games we play!
Barney Owens 1606.
There are some things I know having gone through them: sadness, suffering, sorrow, sickness, physical pain, mental anxiety, emotional distress, discouragement, laughter, joy, good company, pleasant conversation, pleasure, sharing, and happiness—Ah, yes—happiness.