More Than a Game

 

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 NIV

 

Dear Church Family,

 

In 1860, a young lithographer (printer) in Massachusetts, was selling prints of a popular politician named Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln grew a beard, however, the printer’s 1,000 beardless Lincolns became useless. The industrious young printer turned to producing games to earn a living. His name was Milton Bradley. Some of you from my generation will recognize that name. His company would become famous for publishing all manner of board games.

 

Bradley, however, was not just in it for money. He cared deeply about moral development. He was active in children’s education, even teaching his daughter’s kindergarten class. His company would publish a variety of educational materials. Bradley’s first game illustrates his passion.

 

“The Checkered Game of Life” was played on a board where players would move around squares, beginning at “Infancy.” In order to avoid dice (which was associated with gambling), players would spin a “teetotum.” The goal was to reach 100 points, but you gained points by landing on virtue squares. Vice squares would send you back. “Idleness” would send you to “Disgrace;” “Gambling” would send you to “Ruin;” “Intemperance” led to “Poverty,” but “Perseverance” resulted in “Success.” Other squares included “Bravery,” “Honor,” and “Truth.” Reaching “Happy Old Age” would gain you 50 points. Darkest of all, however, was the “Suicide” square, which actually bore the image of a man hanging from a tree—game over.

 

Times change. One hundred years later, in 1960, the Milton Bradley Company pulled out The Checkered Game of Life and gave it a makeover. I grew up playing “The Game of Life” (or “Life”), and it was fun. The game revolved around “Payday” squares; the goal was to end the game with the most money (and go to “Millionaire Acres”). The reason you went to college was to get a higher-paying job. The value of earning a Nobel Prize was literally the cash prize.

 

The new Game of Life teaches lessons, too. It reveals the values of the age in which it was created: “winning” in life is measured by financial wealth. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a little fun with a board game based on money (hint: I’ll be talking about another board game next week). Jesus’ parable in Luke 12, however, is a stark warning to those who play at life as if the end is wealth: this is no game, but you can lose. The goal is not to accumulate temporal possessions, which will pass away, but to know God, your Creator, and live forever with him.

 

In Christ’s service,

 

Pastor Kevin