I know, it’s pathetic isn’t it? Now, before you think otherwise I didn’t have an actual shrine to video games, I didn’t literally bow down to them, I didn’t make sacrificial burnt offerings to them and expect them to save me from my sins…
Except, in a way, I kind of did.
There’s no easy, non-embarrassing, non cringe worthy way of putting this so here goes:
Two and a half years ago I bought a gaming computer for £800 which I paid out of the money I’d saved up over the last six months. In the last two years I have bought many computer games. I can’t calculate exactly how much I spent but I’d say it was at minimum £350. One and a half years ago I bought a Wii for £180. If you add it all together I’ve spent at least £1330 on video gaming. And as the Bible says:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6 v 21
I know how true this statement is. My heart was set upon gaming. Up until September this year I’d say my average daily time spent gaming was minimum two hours. On one game in particular (Team Fortress 2) I’ve spent the equivalent of 14.5 days of my life on. And that’s one game out of the forty odd I own.
Naturally I defined my happiness by my gaming. A good evening was when I topped the scoreboard of whatever multiplayer death match I was playing or overcame a particularly difficult level first time. A bad evening was when everything seemed against me and the heights of the scoreboard seemed insurmountable.
It was escapism, pure and wondrously liberating escapism. I’ve saved whole universes from destruction, defeated numerous evil alien empires, conquered uncharted lands, held off zombies using the power of plants, become the hero in a dozen fantasy worlds and generally just kicked several types of ass.
And yes, on one level there’s nothing much wrong with that. After all, I’ve probably spent just as much time reading, spent hundreds of pounds on books and enjoyed an even greater variety of fictional scenarios. But the point is that I began to define myself by video games. I defined my happiness, life and well being on them. In other words I worshipped video games. And it was pathetic.
Because, of course, it didn’t make me happy, not really. In fact it left me poorer both in financial, spiritual and social terms. So much time and money wasted on profitless activity.
So what changed?
Funnily enough it seemed to me that nothing changed. I didn’t have any BIG revelation where the First Commandment hit home with a hammer blow: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20 v 3), I never felt really guilty about it, I never struggled against it, in my mind nothing much changed.
But this last semester at university I realized something had. Gaming was no longer a priority of mine. I gamed when I had spare time but most of the time my week was far too busy. What with university, small group, Contact Point, CU, prayer meetings, my blog, theology books to read, people to have meet and have coffee with, various other social stuff and all round general busyness I no longer had the time or inclination to play video games.
And life was better, much better.
My priority became God and worshipping him. In no way am I saying that I’ve got this sorted (far from it) but with all the stuff I was doing for him something had to go and without making a conscious decision about it then gaming was the fall guy. Instead of defining my identity by my gaming I began to define my identity by my walk with God. And yes, often I forget this and often I find my sense of purpose from other things and idolise the created rather than Creator. Yet it is good to remember this verse:
“Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37 v 4
The reason this verse is true is because as you delight in the Lord his will becomes you will and his desires becomes your desires. I sought my happiness in video gaming and found nothing but an empty void. It was only when I started to take delight in the Lord that I felt satisfied. As Psalm 37 does onto say:
“The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”
Psalm 37 v 23 – 24
We are created to worship God. Anything else we set up in his place can only bring us misery and despair in the long run. For me, I set up gaming as my god and found it to be worthless. For you it may be something else: drink, money, sex, a significant other, career, status, popularity, etc, etc, etc. These things are not wrong necessarily but if you replace God with them then it is sin and they will ruin you. And let's get this straight - can you imagine how offended God was that I replaced him (my creator, saviour, Father, sustainer, etc) with video games! It's more than sad it's sin.
As Calvin said: ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’. I once made an idol of Facebook likes. Yep, it’s stupid, illogical and pathetic but it’s what we do. We all sin when it comes to this. We all do what Paul writes:
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
Romans 1 v 25
Idols, the things and stuff and feelings we worship are always lies. Lies because nothing can compare to worshipping our Creator – God as declared in the Bible. All sin is a lie, we are convinced that worshipping things other than God will bring us what we want but it never does. God demands, rightly, that we worship him. And when we don't we spit in his face. There's a reason the first of the Ten Commandments is the one against idolatry.
I don’t know what your own idols are but I do know that it will only disappoint you. They cannot satisfy, they cannot make you complete, they cannot bring you lasting happiness. Unless your heart is fixed on God you will never be at peace. God alone is deserving of our worship and God alone can save us from our sin of idolatry. Turn to him in repentance and worship your Creator.
God requires us to worship him. But because we're sinful rebels against him we can't. But if we turn to him, admitting our idolatry and seeking forgiveness he will forgive and give us a new heart that wants to worship him. And as we worship God we find that it is not a heavy, b
“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Jude v 24 – 25